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Is Cerebral Palsy Linked to Birth Asphyxia?

Posted on September 22, 2021

Cerebral palsy most often develops before a child is born, and in many cases, the cause is unknown. However, several studies suggest there is an increased risk of cerebral palsy linked to birth asphyxia.

What is Birth Asphyxia & What Are The Symptoms?

Asphyxia is commonly associated with suffocation or strangulation, but few people realize that it can occur during child birth. Birth asphyxia refers to a baby losing or being deprived of oxygen and blood supply before, during, or immediately after delivery. Since oxygen travels in the blood, if the blood supply is interrupted or not enough reaches the baby’s brain, brain tissue can begin to die. The longer a child is without oxygen, the higher the risk of brain damage (hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy). Symptoms of birth asphyxia in a baby may include:

  • Barely breathing or not at all
  • Low heart rate
  • High level of acid in the blood (acidosis)
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Weak reflexes
  • Seizures

Birthing Complications that Can Cause Birth Asphyxia

Birthing complications, as well as maternal or neonatal factors, can put an infant at risk for asphyxia. For example, cord prolapse causes the umbilical cord to be squeezed between the fetus and the mother’s pelvic bones, reducing the baby’s blood supply. The umbilical cord drops through the open cervix and into the vagina before the baby moves through the birth canal. Other risk factors for asphyxia are low umbilical cord pH, Cesarean sections, induced labor, breech deliveries, and forced extractions.

Birth Asphyxia and Medical Negligence

Cerebral palsy is a common birth injury caused by medical negligence. If your child’s cerebral palsy can be attributed to birth asphyxia, the obstetrician, doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider responsible may be liable for your damages.

Asphyxia and fetal distress can be detected if fetal heart monitoring is used correctly. In some cases, the signs of distress may not be recognized in time or at all, or can be misinterpreted. All of which can result in a mother being unnecessarily sent to C-section or for forced extraction. Failing to notice problems early on or to prevent birth asphyxia may be considered medical negligence and be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Should I Contact an Attorney?

If your child is showing symptoms or has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and you’re wondering whether it was caused by birth asphyxia due to a medical error, speak to a Delaware County birth injury attorney right away. They can help you determine if medical negligence is to blame and which parties can be held accountable for your child’s necessary medical care and other losses. Signs of cerebral palsy can be immediately apparent or may take up to three years to develop. Pennsylvania has a two-year deadline for medical malpractice lawsuits. However, the state’s discovery rule allows parents to bring a medical malpractice claim once they discover their child has cerebral palsy caused by medical negligence or should have known, as long as it is within seven years from when the medical error occurred.