How to Determine if Your Child’s Cerebral Palsy Was Preventable

Cerebral palsy is a serious medical condition that can have a significant effect on your child’s quality of life. Several types of CP exist, but all lead to issues with motor coordination and each one carries the possibility of speech difficulty or seizure activity. In many cases, cerebral palsy occurs during the birth process, though the signs and symptoms may not become evident until the first few months of a child’s life. In this case, you may wonder if your child’s cerebral palsy was preventable.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy has many causes, but in most cases it results from an injury to the brain. Some preventable causes, or risk factors, include:

  • Lack of oxygen during labor or delivery
  • The presence of uncontrolled jaundice after birth
  • Untreated low blood sugar
  • The presence of certain maternal infections that spread to the fetus as the result of medical mismanagement

In many instances, the onset of cerebral palsy is preventable. If a medical professional had reasonably foreseen the potential for injury or applied the proper standard of care, it may have been possible to avoid a brain injury and subsequent diagnosis of CP.

Red Flags During Birth or Delivery

On the other hand, not all cases of cerebral palsy are preventable. Some cases occur despite the best care possible, or the condition may be unrelated to a medical professional’s conduct. Still, it’s important to be aware of certain “red flags” that could have played a role in a child’s brain injury and eventual diagnosis.

1. Fetal Distress

Fetal distress is often one of the first signs that something is wrong during the labor or delivery process. A fetus may experience distress for any number of reasons, but some of the most common include maternal health conditions, premature or prolonged labor, the presence of certain maternal infections or sepsis, exposure to toxins, or the induction of labor itself.

2. Cesarean Delivery

In some cases, such as when a delivery stops progressing, medical intervention may become necessary. A child born via emergency cesarean section following a delayed delivery may be at a slightly higher risk for cerebral palsy.

3. Meconium Staining

When the membranes break, the fluid within should be clear. When tinged with green or brown, it could be a sign that a newborn passed his or her meconium in the womb. If an infant inhales this meconium, it could lead to serious problems such as oxygen deprivation. An infant’s lungs may fail to work properly after birth because of meconium staining. This represents a medical emergency that requires timely intervention.

4. Injuries to the Head

A traumatic birth can lead to dangers for the mother and a poor outcome for the child. When a child sustains an injury to his or her head, the possibility for a cerebral palsy diagnosis may be elevated. An infant may sustain these types of injuries from improper use of birth assistive tools or lack of proper supervision during labor or delivery.

5. A Difficult Pregnancy

Certain medical conditions during pregnancy can make it more challenging for a mother, especially in regard to labor and delivery. Failure to monitor medical conditions that could pose a risk of harm to a developing baby could have long-ranging consequences. Examples of issues that may result from failing to monitor a difficult pregnancy include:

  • Failure to diagnose a maternal infection that could be passed on to the baby
  • Failure to provide appropriate care to a mother with a high-risk pregnancy
  • Failure to provide adequate monitoring to a fetus during labor and delivery
  • Failure to respond appropriately to an emergency during delivery (i.e., fetal distress with an emergency cesarean section).
Your Next Steps Following a Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

A child with cerebral palsy requires extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. A child may require intensive speech therapy, occupational and physical therapy, or the need for orthotic devices or surgery. The cost of these treatments can prove difficult for many families to manage, even with insurance.

In the event that cerebral palsy was preventable, a family may be able to collect financial compensation from the parties responsible. A medical malpractice claim can provide a family with the means to continue important therapy and administer treatments that enhance your loved one's quality of life and strive for the best outcome possible.

Two main forms of financial compensation exist, and a claim can help families gain retrospective compensation for therapy and treatment which already occurred, as well as for the projected cost of continued treatment. Additionally, some avenues of treatment, such as surgery, could be possible when they otherwise wouldn’t be. If you believe that your doctor and medical professionals could have prevented your loved one’s cerebral palsy, your first step should be to consult with an attorney specializing in cerebral palsy cases to discuss any possible legal options.