Detecting Signs of Cerebral Palsy in Your Newborn: What to Watch For

Birth Injury, Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis, Child Development

Blurred black and white image of a newborn, with sharp-focused hand in foreground holding magnifying glass

One of the greatest joys—and reliefs—of new parenthood is seeing your baby reach the expected developmental benchmarks of infancy, such as sitting, rolling over, crawling, and walking. Babies who have trouble reaching these normal milestones may be exhibiting the signs of many different conditions. One such condition is cerebral palsy—a motor disorder that can result from brain damage or abnormalities, leaving a child with lifelong issues in both movement and physical function.

In some cases, cerebral palsy may be caused by a birth injury—a complication or medical error that occurs shortly before, during or after birth. In fact, 20% of children with cerebral palsy developed the condition as a result of medical malpractice during birth. Cerebral palsy is often diagnosed between 18 and 24 months of age, but it may be discovered much earlier for parents who know what to look for. Keep reading to learn about the most common signs of cerebral palsy in your newborn.

What Is Cerebral Palsy, and What Are the Signs?

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a neurological issue, which means that it affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills. As a result, it inhibits the body’s ability to move in a coordinated way. Detecting CP in older babies is relatively clear because it involves making sure that a baby is hitting all developmental milestones on time.

Typically, newborns are too young to screen for evident milestones such as sitting up, rolling over, crawling, etc. Still, the signs of CP usually appear in the first few months of life, which is why it’s crucial for your child’s health and development to monitor them closely. The signs of cerebral palsy to watch for in your newborn may include:

  • Unable to hold up their own head when picked up from lying on their back
  • Unable to hold up their own head while lying on their stomach or in a supported sitting position
  • Muscle spasms
  • Stiffness (hypertonic) or floppiness (hypotonic) when picked up
  • Legs get stiff or cross when picked up
  • Overextension of back and neck when held, as though they are pushing away from you
  • Cortical thumbs (thumbs are persistently bent toward the center of the palm)
  • Feeding or swallowing difficulties
  • Favors the use of one side of their body

Why Early Detection of Cerebral Palsy Is So Important

If you detect any of these signs in your newborn, it could indicate that your child has cerebral palsy. It is important to consult with your child’s healthcare provider as soon as possible for a health exam and testing, because the sooner a baby is diagnosed with CP, the earlier they can begin treatment and therapy. Early diagnosis is key because treatment and therapy are necessary to ensure a child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional potential for their health and well-being in the future.

Early diagnosis is also incredibly important for infants whose condition was caused by a birth injury for legal reasons as well. Families of injured infants may be entitled to compensation that will help them pay for the treatment, therapy, and lifestyle adjustment resources that can greatly improve quality of life for children with cerebral palsy.

The emotional and financial distress of a medical negligence case can be traumatic, especially when your baby has suffered as a result. If you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy was the result of medical error, we are here to provide the legal resources you need.

The experienced Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs have won millions in compensation on behalf of families who were victims of medical malpractice. We use our medical and legal expertise to uncover the truth and fight for the compensation that families like yours deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case, and let us help move your family forward in healing and having the resources to care for your child.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?