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What causes cerebral palsy?

Most people are familiar with cerebral palsy only in the abstract -- they don't realize that it is the result of a birth injury rather than something genetic.

Cerebral palsy is only one of the birth injuries that can ultimately result from the underlying problem -- hypoxia. Hypoxia is simply a term used to describe any situation that causes a baby to receive inadequate oxygen somewhere around the time of birth. The lack of oxygen causes fragile brain cells to die, ultimately resulting in cerebral palsy or other disorders. Other disorders include things like seizure disorders and impaired cognitive functioning in general. Hypoxia is also responsible for as many as 1/3 of all newborn deaths.

There are a number of things that doctors should guard against in order to make sure that your baby doesn't suffer hypoxia. This includes things like infections, twisted umbilical cords, a torn placenta, leaking amniotic fluid and other common birth risks.

It's important to keep in mind that cerebral palsy isn't just a medical condition -- it's the result of a problem during the birth and often a clear sign of medical malpractice because hypoxia doesn't have to occur with proper precautions. If it does occur, despite the best precautions possible, it doesn't always mean that the child will suffer a lifelong disability or death if the appropriate treatment is initiated in a timely manner.

If hypoxia is a possibility, fetal monitoring should be started promptly. If there are signs hypoxia is occurring, an emergency C-section may be able to prevent further complications if the baby is close to his or her due date.

If hypoxia occurs right at birth, the baby needs immediate resuscitation and oxygen treatment. Hospitals have also begun inducing a controlled state of hypothermia, called "cooling therapy," which helps stop cell death in the brain and prevent long-term disability.

If appropriate treatments aren't begun on an infant with hypoxia, your child will need life-long care. Your entire family may also be affected in many ways. Talk to an attorney as soon as possible about the possibility of a birth injury lawsuit so that you can provide for your child's future needs.

Source: FindLaw, "Birth Injury: Hypoxia," accessed June 23, 2017

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