Can a Delay in Performing a Cesarean Section (C-Section) Contribute to a Child’s Cerebral Palsy?

babyA baby can develop cerebral palsy from a number of possible causes, the most common of which is oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery. Attending caregivers must carefully monitor a baby's heart rate during labor and delivery to check for any signs of heart rate problems, such as slowed or irregular heartbeat. When a doctor notices any heart rate irregularities, he or she may require an emergency cesarean section procedure.

Any delay in performing a necessary C-section operation can lead to the baby developing cerebral palsy, a condition which entails a host of possible symptoms and lifelong complications.

Detecting Fetal Distress and Oxygen Deprivation

Hypoxia is the loss or reduction of oxygen flow to a developing baby, and this condition is one of the most common markers of fetal distress and a major risk factor for developing cerebral palsy. When a pregnant mother goes into labor, the attending medical staff will carefully monitor the fetal heart rate to detect any signs of oxygen loss as soon as possible.

When attending medical staff detect any signs of irregular or slowed fetal heart rate, or any other signs that indicate oxygen loss, they must take appropriate action and make medically sound decisions to ensure a healthy delivery. Some situations demand emergency C-section procedures, and medical staff must take appropriate action and perform these procedures as soon as the need becomes clear.

Ensuring a Healthy Delivery After Recognizing Signs of Fetal Distress

There are many cases in which failure to conduct an emergency C-section operation has caused a baby to develop cerebral palsy during labor and delivery. If an attending caregiver does not properly monitor the baby's heart rate, or the attending physician does not take appropriate action once the medical staff identifies a heart rate irregularity, the chances of fetal distress during labor and delivery increase significantly. Doctors may require emergency C-sections for many reasons:

  • If a mother has had previous children by C-section, her attending physician will likely recommend a C-section for delivery for her current pregnancy.
  • If there is any indication that a vaginal birth would be harmful to the baby’s health, the attending physician will likely require a C-section.
  • If the baby’s heart rate becomes irregular or slows during labor and delivery, a C-section may be necessary to save the baby’s life or prevent cerebral palsy.

Doctors can prevent brain damage and the development of cerebral palsy in newborns by requiring emergency C-section operations as soon as the need becomes clear. Failure to acknowledge the need for an emergency C-section can lead to brain damage and lifelong complications from cerebral palsy. Such failure can also leave the attending doctor liable for medical malpractice.

Legal Options After a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Every medical condition, including pregnancy and the various complications that may arise during pregnancy, has a standard of care developed by the medical community. A doctor must only use appropriate treatments and techniques after positively diagnosing a patient’s condition, and failure to do so would be a failure to meet the standard of care for the patient.

Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor fails to meet the standard of care for a patient’s condition. In a cerebral palsy case, this could include failure to properly monitor fetal heart rate, failure to recognize the need for an emergency C-section, or failing to perform a delivery procedure competently.

Cerebral palsy can not only lead to increased immediate medical costs following labor and delivery, but also future medical costs for the care and treatment of a child born with cerebral palsy. This condition can cause a host of possible complications that can interfere with motor skill development, intellectual development, and speech development. Cerebral palsy can also lead to musculoskeletal abnormalities, nerve damage, and seizure disorders. When a doctor’s negligence causes cerebral palsy, the baby’s parents can pursue compensation for their damages and their child’s future medical costs through a medical malpractice claim.