What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

March 1, 2021

Over 10,000 babies are born with cerebral palsy each year, and more than a million Americans currently live with this condition, but not many people know what it is, or what causes it.

As March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, we want to do our part to raise awareness of this serious and often disabling medical condition, and answer some of the most pressing questions parents may have after learning their child has cerebral palsy.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a medical condition caused by abnormal brain development or brain damage that happens during pregnancy (often caused by infections in the womb), during delivery, or shortly after birth.

Cerebral means ”of the brain,” and palsy is a medical term meaning paralysis or involuntary tremors. This condition affects muscle tone, posture, and movement, so people with cerebral palsy have great difficulty controlling their muscles, and experience problems with balance and coordination.

Cerebral palsy only occurs in infants; you cannot get cerebral palsy as an adult. However, cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition and there is no cure, so infants diagnosed with cerebral palsy will be impacted by this condition for their entire lives.

Is Cerebral Palsy Genetic?

No, cerebral palsy is not genetic, and is not inheritable from a parent. No one is genetically predisposed to cerebral palsy. However, some women are genetically predisposed to some types of birth complications, and these birth complications can cause cerebral palsy.

For example, some women are genetically more likely to develop preeclampsia, or have a premature birth or a breech birth. Any of these could result in a higher-than-average risk of their baby developing cerebral palsy. However, your obstetrician should be able to diagnose any risk factors ahead of time and make plans to reduce the risk of your baby developing cerebral palsy.

However, when healthcare providers fail to diagnose birth complications or fail to prevent or mitigate them, they can be held responsible for the consequences. For example, if a complication happens during birth and the doctor fails to order a C-section in time, the baby may suffer brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation and develop cerebral palsy. If that happens, the doctor may be guilty of medical malpractice.

Can Cerebral Palsy Happen After Birth?

Yes, although cerebral palsy can develop in the womb, it is also possible for the baby to suffer brain damage during delivery or shortly after birth. That brain damage could then result in cerebral palsy.

For example, babies could suffer brain damage during delivery if the doctor makes an error, such as causing a head injury through improper use of delivery tools like forceps or vacuum extractors. When that happens, these doctors could be liable for medical malpractice.

Infants under six months of age are also susceptible to brain injury, and any head injuries in this early time frame, such as from a car accident, could also result in cerebral palsy.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Cerebral Palsy?

Babies who suffer from cerebral palsy will feel either very stiff or very floppy, and they may have muscle spasms or suffer from twitching limbs.

Delayed milestones are the other major sign of cerebral palsy. If your baby is having trouble lifting their head, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking long past when they should, you should see a doctor to ask about the possibility of cerebral palsy.

As they grow older, children with cerebral palsy will likely need assistance performing many daily tasks, including dressing and feeding themselves, walking, and potentially even communicating.

We Help Families Affected by Birth Injuries

Welcoming a new child is supposed to be a joyous moment, but when that child is the victim of a birth injury, it can turn your life upside down. Children with cerebral palsy will often require a lifetime of treatment. They also may need physical therapy to learn how to perform many tasks, and often need a wheelchair to get around.

Often families have difficulty paying for the treatment their children need, especially if they need to adapt their vehicles or homes to accommodate their children’s wheelchairs, or if they have to take time off work to take care of their children. This is a heavy financial burden, and when the medical condition causing it is the fault of a negligent healthcare provider, it’s unfair for parents to have to pay out of pocket.

That’s why we fight for families who’ve been harmed by negligent healthcare providers. If your child is suffering from cerebral palsy and you suspect a doctor, nurse, or midwife may be at fault, contact our team of Louisiana medical malpractice lawyers today. We want to hear your story, and get you the help you need. Call today; your case evaluation is 100% free, and with our No Fee Guarantee®, you pay nothing unless we win.