Cerebral palsy is the name used for various lifelong conditions affecting a person’s movement and co-ordination. It is usually caused by damage to a baby’s brain before, during or shortly after their birth.
While this damage is irreversible, with the right treatment and support people with cerebral palsy can still achieve a good quality of life. In general, people with cerebral palsy have the same life expectancy as anyone else and the condition is not progressive, meaning if should not get worse over your child’s lifetime.
Causes of cerebral palsy
There are various issues that can cause cerebral palsy and there is not always a single obvious cause.
The most commonly identified causes are:
- An infection in the mother during early pregnancy
- Abnormal brain development
- Lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain before, during or immediately after birth (known as birth asphyxia)
Cerebral palsy is more likely in cases where:
- The baby is born prematurely
- The baby has a difficult birth
- There are twins, triplets or other multiple birth
- The baby has a particularly low birth weight
The medical team handling your child’s birth should be aware of these issues and take appropriate steps to mitigate any risks. If healthcare professionals make errors during the birth that result in your child developing cerebral palsy, this may count as medical negligence.
Types of cerebral palsy
There are three main types of cerebral palsy. You child may experience just one type, or a mixture of two or all three types.
Spastic cerebral palsy – Around 75-88% of people with cerebral palsy experience some degree of spasticity. This means their muscles are stiff and tight, resulting in decreased range of movement, muscle spasms and muscle pain.
Dyskinetic cerebral palsy – Experienced by around 15% of people with cerebral palsy, this refers to uncontrolled, involuntary, sustained or intermittent muscle contractions. This may result in slow rhythmic movements, difficulty maintaining an upright position and speech issues due to problems controlling the tongue, vocal chords and breathing.
Ataxic cerebral palsy – Affecting around 4% of people with cerebral palsy, this means the inability to activate the correct muscles during movement. Those affected may have poor balance and spatial awareness and difficulty judging their body position in relation to their environment. This can result in unsteady, shaky movement and may also impact speech.
Treatments for cerebral palsy
While there is currently no cure for cerebral palsy, there are various treatments that can be used to alleviate the symptoms.
Surgery – This may be used to deal with tight muscles, dislocated hips, curvature of the spine and other issues commonly experienced by those with cerebral palsy.
Medication – Can be used to relieve pain and muscle stiffness, as well as issues such as sleeping difficulties, epilepsy, constipation and drooling.
Physiotherapy – Including stretching and strength exercises to help people develop muscle tone and prevent muscles shortening leading to decreased range of movement.
Speech and language therapy – To help those with communication difficulties improve their speech and learn alternative methods of communication, such as sign language.
Occupational therapy – An occupational therapist can help identify any particular issues your child is facing, such as problems dressing themselves, and help them develop strategies and techniques to deal with those issues.
Using birth injury compensation to support your child
If your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by mistakes made during their birth by a midwife, doctor or other healthcare professional, you may be able to claim birth injury compensation. This can give you the funds you need to ensure your child gets the help and support they need to live as independently as possible and have a full, happy life.
To begin the process of making a claim, it is a good idea to speak to a specialist cerebral palsy solicitor to ensure you have the best possible advice and representation to achieve a positive outcome.