Although rare, birth complications during birth can and do happen. When a complication causes asphyxia, which is a lack of oxygen to the brain, it can be devastating to the new parents. If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy after suffering asphyxia at birth, it is possible the two incidents could be connected.
What Is Asphyxia?
If a child suffers a loss of oxygen to the brain during birth, it is known as birth asphyxia. There are several causes for birth asphyxia including:
- Abnormal presentation
- Blocked or unformed infant airway
- Excessive bleeding during pregnancy or childbirth
- High blood pressure in mother or child
- Large infant size
- Low blood pressure in mother or child
- Placenta abruption
- Placenta previa
- Prolonged or traumatic delivery
- Shoulder dystocia
- Complications of the umbilical cord
Birth Asphyxia and Cerebral Palsy
There is a significant amount of controversy regarding whether or not birth asphyxia causes cerebral palsy. Studies have indicated a link between lack of oxygen at birth and a later diagnosis of cerebral palsy. The difficulty is in determining what constitutes birth asphyxia as well as the accuracy of a cerebral palsy diagnosis.
Because cerebral palsy encompasses several different disorders, all with different possible causes, it is possible that lack of oxygen at birth could lead to the development of cerebral palsy. It is known that when a baby is deprived of oxygen in the womb or at birth, pH levels, and blood gas levels may become altered. This places the child at risk for acidosis, cerebral hypoxia, and increased carbon dioxide levels. All of these factors can lead to brain damage.
Infant Brain Damage
The length of time the child was deprived of oxygen will have an impact on the severity of the brain damage that they have suffered. How the medical staff handles the situation during and after birth can also have an impact on the severity of the damage. For example, if your child suffers from an umbilical cord problem and your physician does not realize there is a problem, the umbilical issue may become much worse.
A doctor or nurse may fail to monitor fetal distress in a timely manner which means a cesarean section may not be scheduled soon enough to protect the child. Birth injuries causing cerebral palsy are preventable, and in cases like these you would be able to file a lawsuit against the doctor to cover the cost of your baby’s medical treatments.
Premature Infants and Multiple Births
There is evidence that premature infants are often at higher risk for cerebral palsy. Many preterm babies require intensive care due to respiratory complications. The same is often true of multiple births. When more than one child is born at one time, they are likely to be smaller and may be born prematurely. Multiple births have a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy as well. This could be related to lack of oxygen, not only at birth but in-utero as well.
Diagnosing Cerebral Palsy
Unfortunately, if your child suffers a lack of oxygen at birth, you may not know immediately that they have cerebral palsy. Many cases are not diagnosed until the child is over the age of six months, especially if the child has a mild case.
Doctors use a variety of methods to identify whether a child has cerebral palsy, including CT scans, MRIs, and other electronic imaging methods. Developmental assessments are also a common strategy in screening for cerebral palsy. For example, if your child crawls in a lopsided way or scoots along on their bottom rather than crawling, it is possible they could have cerebral palsy.