Cerebral palsy is a debilitating disorder that affects a developing brain’s motor control centers, preventing a newborn from adapting to internal and external changes. Occurring during or near childbirth, cerebral palsy in newborns ranges in severity, depending on the location and amount of damage done. Early detection can make dealing with the condition more manageable and help your child live a less complicated life.
What is Cerebral Palsy and How Is It Caused?
A common disorder affecting newborns in the United States, cerebral palsy (CP) expresses itself in varying degrees and symptoms. Cerebral refers to the body part affected, the cerebrum in the brain, while palsy specifies paralysis or dormancy. CP can be a lifetime disability that takes a lot of energy and expenses to manage.
Cerebral palsy diagnoses will vary. But, in more severe cases, cerebral palsy in newborns can be diagnosed once the child reaches one month old. Three main types of cerebral palsy exist. There’s spastic cerebral palsy, which includes stiffness and issues moving limbs. This type is usually diagnosed once a child reaches six months old. Athetoid cerebral palsy involves uncontrolled and abnormal movement. And then there’s ataxic cerebral palsy, which involves issues with balance and depth perception, and it may take years to diagnose.
How cerebral palsy occurs is still a bit of a mystery. While some doctors believe that cerebral palsy develops due to a maternal infection being contracted prior to delivery, others believe it results from brain injuries. These injuries can occur because of medical malpractice during delivery.
Cerebral palsy in newborns can happen when babies are denied oxygen for too long, or they were pulled out with force during a difficult labor. Birth-assistance tools such as a forceps or a specialized vacuum may have been used during the delivery, and such hardware can cause birth injuries. It can also happen if labor was extensive, such as when the child was part of multiple births during a delivery.
Signs and Stages of Cerebral Palsy
The earliest signs that a child has cerebral palsy are when he or she is having developmental delays. If your newborn misses key growth milestones including walking, crawling, and sitting, among others, that may be your first hint to be concerned.
Within the first few weeks, your child should be smiling and looking back at you, bringing their hands to their mouth, and calming himself or herself. Your child should also be able to follow objects with their eyes and recognize people or things at a distance. Babies also pay attention to faces and make other movements with their arms and legs by that age. If your child has missed some or most of these developmental milestones during those first few weeks (or when they get older), then your child’s brain may be affected by CP.
Medical care professionals will look for physical abnormalities when diagnosing cerebral palsy such as posture problems and abnormal muscle tone. Motor function, posture, control, and reflexes are all affected. The child’s mouth and other parts may droop as well. Swallowing, eating, and making visible facial expressions may also be problematic and are signs that your child has cerebral palsy.
When a child is younger than six months old, there are many things you can pick up on to determine whether or not they have cerebral palsy. For one, whenever you’re picking up your baby while it’s lying on its back, you may notice that the head lags. Don’t be fooled by increased muscle tone in the neck as that may make head control seem more advanced than it actually is. You may also find that your baby feels either stiff or limp when you hold them, or they have twitchy arms or legs. Impulse control weakens due to CP so that twitchiness may be a major part of their movement.
Your newborn may also be irritable and have problems feeding or sleeping and may vomit often. Furthermore, your child may be irritable when being handled or cuddled, overextending their back and neck while acting as if they’re pushing away from you. The baby may also have problems seeing clearly, so make sure you’re paying attention to how their eyes are tracking.
How Can You Treat CP?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for cerebral palsy due to its complicated nature and non-definitive origin. While no treatment exists to eliminate cerebral palsy in newborns, some measures can ensure your child is as comfortable as possible while managing this condition.
One such option is orthopedic surgery, which can diminish spastic movements to a degree. Another is physical therapy, which helps affected children boost their motor skills. Your child can also try occupational therapy to assist with daily living skills such as eating and social interaction, promoting independence.
Chances are that if your child has cerebral palsy, medication will be recommended at some point ease the pain as well as limit certain uncontrolled motions. There are anti-inflammatory medications that can slow down the pain, anticonvulsant medications to inhibit spastic movements and other medicines that can help manage CP symptoms.
Why is Important to Detect Cerebral Palsy Early on?
Detecting early signs of CP makes treatment options more viable. While they may not eliminate the condition, they make handling it a bit easier, minimizing handicaps as well. Your child’s cognitive, physical, and social potential can still be reached once such signs are noticed and addressed as soon as possible.
If you believe medical malpractice was the cause of cerebral palsy in your newborn or infant, you may be entitled to compensation. You can recoup expenses for medical procedures, treatments, and lifestyle adjustment resources. Waiting too long can diminish your newborn’s chances at a normal life, and it can cost you a lot of money. Considering the medication, machinery, and other things involved with caring for a child who has CP, it’s vital you notice the signs and address them immediately.
If your child has cerebral palsy caused by a birth injury due to improper medical practices, Safe Birth Project offers legal case help to make sure you get the compensation you need. Seek this help right away!