Generally, the word “cerebral” refers to portions of the brain, and “palsy” means compromised condition or weakness of muscles. Cerebral palsy is a condition caused by injuries to those portions of the brain which control muscle movement. These brain injuries may occur during labor, delivery or after birth when care is mismanaged or contraindicated.
Three types of cerebral palsy (CP) are spastic, athetoid, and ataxic. Spastic CP manifests in muscles which can be stiff or contracted, and typically limits effective movement. Athetoid CP involves uncontrolled movements of the arms, legs and face. Ataxic CP may affect depth perception, coordination and balance.
Cerebral palsy conditions can be mild, moderate, or severe. Children with mild cerebral palsy are often clumsy. Moderate CP can lead to more profound physical disabilities including inability to walk or grasp. Children with severe CP may have learning and cognitive disability, sensory issues, and physical disabilities which may require the use of a wheelchair, other ambulatory devices, or may render a child completely bedridden and dependent upon ventilator/respiratory, nutrition and other support.
Birth hypoxia or lack of adequate oxygen during the labor and delivery processes can cause cerebral palsy. Birth hypoxia and resultant brain injuries could stem from excessive maternal sedation, but it is often caused by obstetric healthcare providers’ failures in recognizing fetal hypoxia or “distress” depicted in the tracings of fetal heart monitor strips during labor, and in failing to render treatment accordingly in light of any distress exhibited by the fetus.
It is crucial that healthcare providers proceed appropriately within the standard of care to address these and other issues that may arise during the prenatal, labor, delivery and neonatal periods. If errors were made in the care provided throughout these periods, and such errors caused harm to the mother or the newborn, families may be able to seek financial compensation for the child’s injuries and other losses. Monetary compensations that can be sought in such cases include those for the costs of medical and rehabilitative care, permanent injuries, disabilities, lost wages and pain and suffering.