Maternity Negligence – Cerebral Palsy

Maternity Negligence – Cerebral Palsy

Birth injury claims for compensation such as Cerebral Palsy is the medical term given to numerous neurological conditions which affect the movement and co-ordination of the sufferer. ‘Cerebral’ refers to the part of the body affected, and ‘Palsy’ refers to paralysis as there is an area of the brain that’s dormant or paralyzed, which leads to either partial or complete muscle paralysis – see maternity negligence claims page.

The condition can occur if the brain develops an abnormality or is damaged during the gestation period, during the delivery of the child and in rare cases shortly after the birth. Cerebral Palsy can occur due to what we call maternity negligence claims if there has been poor management of pregnancy or mistakes that have made during the delivery which have resulted in a lack of oxygen being taken in by the infant. Consequently, brain injury or brain damage can result, which can expose a child to life-time of care.

Generally, there are three kinds of cerebral palsy: ‘spastic cerebral palsy’, ‘athetoid cerebral palsy’, and ‘ataxic cerebral palsy’. ‘Spastic cerebral palsy’ includes stiffness and a problem moving limbs. ‘Athetoid cerebral palsy’ involves involuntary, uncontrolled, and sometimes abnormal movements. ‘Ataxic cerebral palsy’ includes problems with a sense of balance, depth-perception, or walking.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is caused by brain injury or brain malformation that occurs before, during, or immediately after birth while the infant’s brain is under development. However there still exists a significant mystery as to how exactly an infant develops it. Some doctors and scientists believe that an infant gets Cerebral Palsy from a maternal infection before the delivery (any kind of infection that could disturb normal growth and development of the brain). Other doctors and scientists believe that brain injuries sustained as an infant can turn into Cerebral Palsy, which is directly related to clinical negligence as it’s during birth or just after birth that these infants generally sustain the brain injury. See also guide by Wikipedia – cerebral palsy

The signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is characterised by irregular movements, a lack of muscle control and is often determined by abnormal, slow, writhing movements that the child cannot control. Additionally, muscle tone varies between floppy and stiff, which also could result in the use of some muscles over others. Other signs of Cerebral Palsy include intellectual disabilities.
Thus some of the clinical signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy include:

•    Lack of muscle control
•    Abnormal reflexes
•    Limited co-ordination and control
•    Difficulties with communication

Tests to confirm Cerebral Palsy

It is an imperative to confirm Cerebral Palsy and this can be confirmed through blood tests, cranial ultrasound, an MRI scan and/or a CT scan of the baby’s brain.

•    Blood tests only take a few minutes to complete and are carried out at a pregnant women’s GP surgery or local hospital by a doctor, nurse or phlebotomist (a specialist in taking blood samples) ][ .
•    An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan uses radio and magnetic waves to study the brain in more detail and this can be utilised for the diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. An MRI scan is a painless and safe procedure and is made manageable with the support from the radiographer see further NHS Cerebral Palsy.
•    Cranial ultrasound scans use sound waves to build up a picture of a child’s brain tissue and help monitor an unborn baby, diagnose a condition, or guide a surgeon during certain procedures. Most ultrasound scans last between 15 and 45 minutes. They usually take place in a hospital radiology department and are performed either by a radiologist or a sonographer NHS Cerebral Palsy.
•    Computerised tomography (CT) scans use a series of X-rays that are then assembled by a computer to create a detailed 3D model of a child’s brain. CT scans can produce detailed images of many structures inside the body, including the internal organs, blood vessels and bones and these scans are used to diagnose conditions, guide further tests/treatments and monitor conditions. They’re carried out in hospital by specially trained operators called radiographers. NHS Cerebral Palsy
•    There are many other methods such as an electroencephalogram (EEG) or an electromyogram (EMG) and 3D scans.
•    Cognitive assessments and medical observations are also used to help confirm cerebral palsy. Additionally, evaluations of the child’s mobility, speech and language, hearing, vision, gait, and feeding and digestion are utilized to determine the disorder. NHS Cerebral Palsy
•    However, it is important to bear in mind that a cerebral palsy diagnosis takes time, sometimes up to several years after a brain injury takes place. Furthermore, there isn’t a single test that can completely confirm or completely exclude cerebral palsy. Instead, a combination of a series of tests, observations, assessments, and evaluations are used to help diagnose the disorder. Hence, the diagnosis stage is very complex Birth Injury Guide – Cerebral Palsy

The relationship between Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities

Unfortunately, since cerebral palsy is a brain injury, other areas of the brain can be affected. This is likely to induce some children with Cerebral Palsy to suffer from hearing, sight, and speech problems. Children may also have problems with bladder control and problems with muscles. Children with cerebral palsy should be regularly observed by an occupational therapist to prevent other problems.
Cerebral Palsy often causes mental health issues in children afflicted by the disability. Many children with the condition have behavioural problems, even those with mild levels of physical limitations. Furthermore, the Scientific World Journal provides that, children with Cerebral Palsy often suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, worry, conduct problems such as temper tantrums and disobedience, and socialization problems such as preferring to be with adults instead of peers and deep feelings of loneliness.

In addition, some children with cerebral palsy may have a tendency to overreact emotionally to new situations, especially challenging ones. Parents are advised to consult with their child’s physician, who may recommend mental health screening to diagnose and treat mental health conditions as soon as possible.
In short, Cerebral Palsy is related to a range of physical, mental and emotional problems.

The care that is involved with Cerebral Palsy & Compensation

Once a child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, the parents are typically introduced to a team of professionals who can help clearly explain what the child needs. This meeting will likely draw up what’s called a ‘Life Care Plan’. This ‘plan’ is an itemised list of needs that the child will have during certain time frames of his or her life, involving accommodations that need to be made in the home.

Making a claim for compensation for a birth injury such as cerabal palsy is the only way to relieve the financial pressure to look after the child and the whole family.  A typical case can take a long time to go through the legal process but providing negligence is admitted, interim regular compensation payments for the cerabal palsy condition will be made to help the family.  These payments can help with the care the child needs, transports costs, housing needs and of, course, caring needs of the child often around the clock.

Cure/ treatments?

Currently there is no cure for cerebral palsy, but extensive research and studies are currently ongoing. In the meantime, there are a few procedures and treatments that can make a child more comfortable. Orthopaedic surgery can help diminish spastic movements, and physical therapy can help children attempt to control motor skills. Occupational therapy can help with daily living skills such as eating, tying shoes, social interaction, and learning to be more independent as time goes on. In many instances, medication may be prescribed to help control the disabilities. There are a wide variety of medicines that help people with cerebral palsy .

Compensation for maternity negligence claims & Cerabal Palsy

We appreciate that is it a difficult for parents to sue the experts but things can go wrong.  We are not all perfect.  The long term damage to the baby and family can be emotionally and physically demanding.  A maternity negligence claim, often called a birth injury claim can be made against the Hospital concerned if it is believed that there is a negligence claim for compensation for the birth injury in this case Cerabal Palsy.

Please contact us now if you wish to consider make a birth injury claim for Cerebral Palsy.

Further reading on clinical negligence compensation claims

Maternity negligence claims

Maternity negligence compensation

Birth Injury compensation

NHS Cerebral Palsy

Birth Injury Guide – Cerebral Palsy

Birth injury compensation claims and retained placenta

Forceps and birth injury claims for compensation

Birth Injury Compensation – injury to baby forceps delivery

Pre-Eclampsia Compensation Claims and Birth Injury


Author Ikram Miah, Para-Legal specialising in clinical medicine.