Cerebral palsy occurs because of brain damage that generally occurs before or during birth. However, there are rare instances when the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy symptoms occurs after birth. This condition is known as acquired cerebral palsy.
The mechanisms that lead to brain damage and cerebral palsy can vary. Many are preventable, although some occur because of genetics or other factors.
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Causes of Brain Damage or Disruption in Brain Development
Many things can trigger a disruption in brain development, abnormal development, or brain damage, and any of these circumstances can result in cerebral palsy. In some cases, it is impossible to pinpoint the exact cause of a child’s cerebral palsy. However, there are some known causes of cerebral palsy in newborns.
These causes may include:
- Certain maternal infections
- Stroke or other interruption in the blood flow to the baby’s brain
- Bleeding into the brain, either during development, birth, or soon after birth
- Infections in the baby, primarily meningitis
- Loss of adequate oxygen to the brain during pregnancy, birth, or shortly after birth (asphyxia)
- Traumatic brain injury during pregnancy or because of a birth injury
Most cases of acquired cerebral palsy occur because of an infection, such as meningitis, or because of a traumatic brain injury in the first few weeks or months of life.
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Risk Factors for Brain Damage and Cerebral Palsy
Because of the wide range of injuries and illnesses that could cause cerebral palsy, many risk factors increase the likelihood of this condition in newborns. Many of them are preventable, or there are ways to reduce the risk of complications that can cause cerebral palsy.
Risk Factors Related to Maternal Health
When a pregnant woman has an infection and does not receive treatment, the baby may suffer brain damage or other complications. In some cases, mothers who have certain medical conditions before conception can put the baby’s health at risk, as well. Some infections that are causes of cerebral palsy include:
- Rubella, also known as German measles. A vaccine is available.
- Herpes, although there are measures that can greatly reduce the risk
- Syphilis, a treatable, sexually-transmitted bacterial infection
- Zika virus
Risk Factors Related to Toxic Exposure
When a developing infant suffers exposure to certain toxins, it can disrupt brain development and cause complications, including cerebral palsy. These toxins include alcohol, some medications or illegal drugs, and toxic substances such as methylmercury.
Risk Factors Related to Infant Health
Some medical conditions can increase the risk of an infant having cerebral palsy. Depending on the condition, they can occur in the womb, during birth, or in the first weeks of the baby’s life. They include:
- Infection of the membranes around the brain or spinal cord, known as meningitis (bacterial) or encephalitis (viral)
- Untreated, severe cases of jaundice, a condition caused by excess bilirubin in the baby’s system
- Perinatal stroke or other causes of bleeding in the brain
Other Risk Factors
Other circumstances that may increase a baby’s chances of developing cerebral palsy include:
- Breech presentation, or another abnormal presentation
- Being less than 5.5 pounds at birth, especially babies with an extremely low birth weight
- Multiple pregnancies
- Premature babies, especially those born before 28 weeks
A Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis May Support a Birth Injury Claim
Many causes of cerebral palsy are preventable if the doctor monitoring the pregnancy or birth recognizes the risk factors and takes the proper steps to mitigate the risk. A birth injury medical malpractice attorney in your state can review your case and help you understand if you have a viable claim.
If your attorney can identify how your child’s doctor or another medical care provider caused or failed to prevent the baby’s cerebral palsy, the attorney can build a case on your behalf and help your family pursue compensation.
It is important to act quickly, though. Each state has a statute of limitations that limits how long you can wait to file a lawsuit. However, there may be additional rules that apply to extend the time limit for birth injuries. Talking with a medical malpractice attorney is the best option to learn more.
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Get a Free Case Review From a Birth Injury Attorney
If your child has a cerebral palsy diagnosis, a birth injury attorney in your state will review your case for free to determine if the doctor, hospital, or another care provider caused or could have prevented your child’s condition. You may be eligible to pursue compensation on their behalf.
Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group for a free case review today at (800) 222-9529 to get started.