Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle movement and motor skills. The brain develops abnormally or is damaged during birth. It used to be thought that CP was caused when the brain did not get enough oxygen during the birth process, but scientists know much more about the disorder today. Although there is no cure for CP, the disorder is not degenerative. However, living with CP is definitely life-changing for the child and the family.
Cerebral palsy risk factors
According to the CDC, CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. It seems to be more common in boys than in girls, and is more prevalent among African Americans than white children. The CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring reports that one in 323 children have CP.
Cerebral palsy that is related to brain damage that occurs before or during birth is called congenital CP. Here are some of the risk factors for developing CP:
- Low birthweight
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART) infertility treatments
- Multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Infections during the pregnancy
- Premature birth
- Some medical conditions of the mother, such as thyroid problems, seizures or intellectual disability
- Birth complications
It is called acquired CP when the brain damage occurs more than 28 days following the birth. Generally, acquired CP is due to an infection or head injury, but it can also be caused by an issue with blood flow to the brain. Cerebral palsy is not always related to a birth injury caused by a healthcare provider, but it can be.
CP is classified by the type of movement disorder, which depends on which areas of the brain that were affected. How CP manifests will vary person to person, but it usually causes stiff muscles, uncontrollable movements, or poor balance and coordination. Early screening and intervention is key to the well-being of the child.
Dealing with cerebral palsy
As a parent of a child with cerebral palsy, you will be facing many more expenses than if your child did not have the disorder. The CDC reports that medical costs alone were about 10 times higher for children with CP than those without. There may be even more indirect costs, such as loss of productivity in the workforce and the household. It is estimated that the lifetime cost to care for a person with CP is about $1 million dollars.
If you believe that your child's cerebral palsy might have occurred due to a birth injury or malpractice by a doctor, you should talk to an attorney to ensure that the statute of limitations has not passed. In Missouri, typically a lawsuit must be filed within two years from the date the injury was discovered.