Early Warning Signs of Cerebral Palsy in Infants

Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Cerebral palsy is the name for a group of permanent, non-progressive disorders, caused by either abnormal development of the brain or damage to the developing brain. In many cases, early warning signs can signal that a baby or toddler might be afflicted with CP.

What Should You Be Looking For?

In general, cerebral palsy is seen in three different types of early warning signs: abnormal muscle tone, abnormal posture, and failure to meet developmental milestones. There are some specific abnormalities that can serve as early signs of cerebral palsy in babies and beyond.

In infants younger than six months, warning signs may be that they:

  • are floppy or feel stiff when they are picked up
  • cannot hold their head up when picked up from lying on their back
  • overextend their neck or back when picked up

With older infants, early warning signs may include:

  • being unable to roll over
  • being unable to bring their hands together or to their mouths
  • crawling in a lopsided way

Early signs of cerebral palsy in toddlers may include abnormal posture, uncontrollable muscle movement, inability to stand, or difficulties with fine motor skills, such as eating or playing with toys.

When Do Early Warning Signs Tend to Manifest?

While some infants are diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after birth, many other children aren’t diagnosed until they are two years old, or even later, once it becomes clear that they are not meeting their developmental milestones. As such, warning signs may be apparent soon after birth, such as abnormal primitive reflexes like the startle reflex. Or, warning signs may appear much later, such as poor balance or impaired movement while the child is learning to walk.

Do Early Warning Signs Differ by Type of Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy generally includes three different types: spastic, dyskinetic, or ataxic, each of them affecting the patient’s body in different ways. Because of this, the various types of CP can come with different sorts of warning signs. For example, a child with spastic CP may exhibit early warning signs of stiff muscles and spastic movements, especially when under stress. A child with dyskinetic CP, on the other hand, may exhibit trouble controlling muscle movement, while a child with ataxic CP may exhibit early issues with balance and walking.

What Should You Do If You See These Signs?

First and foremost, make sure you obtain the medical care your child needs. If you feel that your child is showing early warning signs of CP, request that your child’s doctor perform an MRI or other medical testing and imaging, in order to better define any brain abnormalities or issues with brain structure. Seek out an opinion from a specialist, and also ask your doctor about developmental screening options to evaluate whether your child may have any specific developmental delays.

If it is determined that your child has CP, seek early intervention services, which are designed to help families with developmental delays and disabilities. Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are various treatments and therapies available, like speech, behavior, physical and occupational therapies, along with medication to ease some of the accompanying symptoms.

If you suspect that your child’s cerebral palsy is due to the negligent or wrongful actions of a medical professional or the hospital, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. Consult with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to discuss the facts of your case, your legal rights, and potential options.

What Are Your Next Steps?

Cerebral palsy, in general, is caused by either abnormal brain development or injury to the brain during pregnancy or at birth. Although many cases of CP cannot be prevented, it is estimated that up to 20% of cases occur due to the negligence of one or more healthcare providers. This can be a result of many negligent actions, whether a missed infection, a misdiagnosis of a medical condition that affected the baby’s brain, or other types of brain injury caused by malpractice.

If you believe your child’s CP was caused by a medical professional’s negligence, it’s important to evaluate whether seeking legal help may help ensure proper treatment and care. The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC have consulted with over 30,000 families nationwide. Our legal and medical experience has helped to uncover the truth and recover the compensation families deserve. If your child suffered from medical malpractice that led to cerebral palsy, contact our medical malpractice lawyers today for a free, no-obligation consultation.



Claire Surles, RN
Reviewed by:
Claire Surles, RN
Registered Nurse

Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO

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