Are You Born With Cerebral Palsy?

Birth Injury, Causes of Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis, Featured

Newborn swaddled in yellow with large orange question mark on chest being held up by nurse

Cerebral palsy is one of the most common movement-related disorders seen in children across the globe. This disorder is often characterized by a lack of muscle tone, poor coordination and balance, the development of learning disabilities and difficulty walking.

According to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation, as many as 0.3% of babies born in America will receive this diagnosis during their first few years of life. Just when this condition develops will vary on a case-by-case basis.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

A common cause of cerebral palsy is damage to the white matter of the brain. This is the area of the brain that’s responsible for controlling bodily movements as well as memory, thinking patterns, and the ability to maintain attention. This damage often occurs as a result of a lack of blood flow or oxygen to the brain, infections in either the baby or mother, trauma inside or outside of the womb, and genetic disorders.

Are You Born With CP?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 85 to 90% of cases of cerebral palsy are considered “congenital.” That means that up to nine in 10 of those diagnosed with cerebral palsy were actually born with the condition. There are a few factors that make congenital cerebral palsy more likely to develop, including the length of the gestational period and birth weight.

Gestational Period Length and Birth Weight

Luckily, an expectant mother’s risk of delivering a baby with cerebral palsy declines as she approaches the 40-week mark in her pregnancy. Premature babies, specifically babies born earlier than 37 weeks, are at much higher risk.

In Europe and Australia, about 79.5 out of 1,000 babies born between 28 and 31 weeks will be born with cerebral palsy. By 37 weeks, that risk significantly drops to a mere 1.7 out of 1,000 births. Most cases of congenital cerebral palsy will develop between the 26- and 34-week mark, a period where an unborn baby’s brain is extremely delicate and impressionable.

Premature delivery and low birth weight are two factors that often go hand-in-hand. That means the lower a baby’s birth weight when born, the greater the risk of developing cerebral palsy. That’s especially the case with babies born weighing 5.5 pounds or fewer, regardless of whether they’re full-term.

Other Factors

Cerebral palsy can be caused by a multitude of factors when it’s congenital. Some of these additional factors include multiple births (like twins and triplets), a lack of blood flow or oxygen to the baby’s brain while in the womb (like when the umbilical cord wraps around a baby’s neck), genetic mutations and can even be caused by medical malpractice.

The health of the expectant mother is perhaps just as important as the health and development of the baby when it comes to an eventual cerebral palsy diagnosis. A mother experiencing health issues like low or high blood pressure, trauma to the womb or uterus, infections during pregnancy or even something as simple as a fever is at a higher risk for complications that can lead to cerebral palsy.

Do You Have to Be Born With Cerebral Palsy?

You don’t have to be born with cerebral palsy to receive a diagnosis. About 10% of cases of cerebral palsy will occur outside of the womb, either during childbirth or within the first few years of a child’s life. In addition, most cases of congenital cerebral palsy won’t be diagnosed for several months or years, often occurring when important developmental milestones are missed. In some cases, brain damage will occur during childbirth, and it can be due to medical malpractice if the baby isn’t delivered properly.

Cerebral palsy can occur because of a multitude of reasons in the first few months and years of life. Essentially, any action or event that can cause brain damage increases the risk of developing cerebral palsy.

For example, a near-drowning, choking incident or even a sudden stroke can deprive a young child’s brain of oxygen for a few minutes at a time. In other cases, a traumatic injury from a car accident, tragic fall or severe concussion can cause bleeding in the still-developing brain or even severe brain damage. In rare circumstances, cerebral palsy can be caused by meningitis.

How Late Can Cerebral Palsy Develop?

Cerebral palsy is not a condition that can develop later on in life during adolescence or the adult years. Most cases of cerebral palsy will be diagnosed within the first few months, but some cases may take as long as five years to officially diagnose. Late diagnoses are more likely to occur in less severe cases of cerebral palsy.

Many conditions can cause cerebral palsy, but in some cases, those conditions could have been prevented with proper medical care. If you have concerns about the medical care you received from a doctor, nurse or another health professional, contact the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs today.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?