How important are birth injuries in the development of cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a generic name for a series of conditions characterized by movement, posture and coordination problems resulted from the improper functioning of the brain. As the brain is damaged in different areas and with a different severity, the symptoms of the condition vary from one patient to another.

Scientifically speaking there are various types of CP. Some patients have difficulties in controlling movements due to muscle stiffness, others have muscle spasms affecting their posture but also the ability to speak, in more rare cases patients have balance related problems or a combination of the above mentioned types. CP can also be categorized depending on the areas of the body that are affected. Some patients have difficulties controlling one limb, others the lower limbs, some of them one side of the body and the severely affected ones have symptoms in their entire body associated with mental retardation.

All these problems are caused by brain damage. In order for a brain damage to have such effects it has to occur before, during or immediately after birth. Although many believed that the main cause of CP are birth injuries, now we know that in fact 90% of the cases are caused by brain damage that occurred sometime during pregnancy. Various types of brain damages can be held responsible. For example the white matter of the brain can be affected due to maternal infections. Tiny holes will develop in the white matter, making it difficult to send electric impulses towards the rest of the body. Severe damages can occur also if the development of the brain is interrupted during pregnancy or if the fetus suffers a stroke because of the mother’s high blood pressure. The only types of brain damage that actually occur during birth are the injuries caused by oxygen deprivation and traumas to the head.

If the central nervous system does not receive enough oxygen, brain cells will began to die. That can happen if the delivery takes place in abnormal conditions, like a breech delivery, multiple delivery, prolonged second stage of delivery, cesarean section or vacuum extraction. If the umbilical cord is twisted around the baby’s neck or if the baby is too large for a normal delivery, and remains blocked in the birth canal, the consequences can be the same.

Parents will most likely not know right away that their child has been injured. The symptoms of cerebral palsy might become obvious only years later as the child grows and the abnormalities become more visible. Although birth injuries are responsible in only 10% of the cases, if parents suspect that could be the case of their child they should contact a birth injury lawyer. But in order to have a legal claim medical negligence has to be involved. Considering that sometimes it is impossible to prove what exactly caused the injury, proving such a presumption will be difficult. Fortunately there are several organizations and funds available for affected families, to help them cover the costs…

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