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Why Don’t More People Know About Preventable Cerebral Palsy?

Did you know that a large proportion of cerebral palsy is preventable? This may come as a surprise to even the most knowledgeable of us, including parents of children with cerebral palsy, and even doctors. Often our clients tell us that they have been told by their health care professionals that “these things happen”, and an explanation of what happened to their child is not given to them.

However, there usually is an explanation for why your child has cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that occurs from oxygen deprivation while the brain is still developing, usually shortly before or during birth, and sometimes immediately following birth. In modern medicine, during the labour process, babies’ heart rates are monitored to ensure they are getting enough oxygen from mom, through the umbilical cord. In rare cases, the labour process has the potential to reduce the oxygen flow to the baby – by the umbilical cord getting squished between mom and baby as baby descends down the birth canal, or by other rare emergencies like the uterus rupturing. The heart rate pattern is what tells us what is going on in utero, and babies even give us warning signs before they become injured through the heart rate tracing. Most mothers don’t have any idea what the doctors and nurses are looking for when the beeping machine prints out a heart rate tracing, but what they are looking for is those warning signs, just in case they need to get the baby out quickly, before injury occurs.

A question we get a lot, even from doctors, is “how can you possibly find fault with a doctor or nurse when a baby is born with cerebral palsy?” The answer goes back to the heart rate monitoring – in many of our cases, the monitoring identifies when things are going badly, but the doctors and nurses ignore those warning signs or choose not to move to a quick delivery of the baby and the baby is born with a brain injury as a result.

If you suspect that this may have happened to your child, it is important to speak to a lawyer who is knowledgeable about this area of the medicine and of the law. That lawyer will obtain the medical records and review them to see if the brain injury likely occurred during the labour and delivery process, and whether there was a window of opportunity for the doctors and nurses to intervene. Members of the Birth Injury Lawyers Alliance are all experienced in this area and ready to help you at no up-front cost to you.