Causes of Cerebral Palsy
The brain injury that results in cerebral palsy can occur during pregnancy, during the birth process, or during the newborn period. During pregnancy, infection, exposure to toxins, and maternal illness may precipitate injury. Some common causes or contributing factors:
- Infections including toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegallovirus (CMV), herpes simplex, or untreated group B strep.
- Exposure to certain toxic chemicals or other harmful environmental hazards.
- Exposure to certain prescription, nonprescription or illegal drugs or abuse of alcohol during pregnancy.
- Untreated high blood pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia, toxemia, or diabetes.
- Placental abnormalities, including placental insufficiency or premature aging, or placental abruption (separating from the uterine wall), causing intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) of the fetus.
- Severe malnutrition of the mother.
- Effects of certain genetic defects or syndromes.
Brain injury during the birth process may arise from oxygen deprivation or other distress related to the following factors:
- Untreated umbilical cord compression, prolapse or occlusion
- Unrecognized or untreated signs of fetal distress from pressure on the umbilical cord
- Dystocia, where the baby is stuck in the birth canal too long due to its size or position
- Damage to the placenta during the birth process, specifically, placenta previa or placental abruption
Brain injury that occurs during the newborn period may arise from:
- Complications of severe prematurity, including problems with the heart, blood pressure, circulation, breathing, meconium aspiration, nutrition, hydration, temperature, infection, jaundice, or bleeding
- Untreated jaundice or Rh incompatibility
- Hereditary conditions interfering with the baby’s digestion
- Untreated seizures
How We Help
As the lists of factors suggest, cerebral palsy may occur without malpractice, where there is nothing that should have or could have been done by the health care provider to avoid injury. On the other hand, there are cases where injury could have been prevented or made considerably less severe if timely and appropriate intervention by the health care providers had occurred. An experienced malpractice attorney, reviewing your prenatal, delivery, and newborn records, can help you assess causation and other questions in your case.