How Do You Know if Your Baby Has Cerebral Palsy?

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Let’s face it, every mom compares her baby’s development to her friends’ babies. If you’re noticing your baby doesn’t seem to be rolling over, sitting, babbling, or hitting other developmental milestones as early as other infants, it’s natural you’d be concerned. 

Every child is unique, and most will reach these stages of development in their own time. However, if your baby seems to have weak muscles and is far behind, the problem could be cerebral palsy.

In many cases, cerebral palsy is caused by a defect in a developing embryo’s brain. It can also be caused by a birth injury. Some birth injuries are unavoidable, but others are caused by medical mistakes and negligence. In these cases, parents may choose to file a lawsuit.

Cerebral palsy, also known as CP, is a term that is used to describe a group of neurological and movement disorders. It can be difficult to tell if an infant has the condition, but most cases are diagnosed within the first two years. Recognizing cerebral palsy in your child may be easier if you know what to look for.

Signs of Cerebral Palsy

The signs of cerebral palsy can vary widely depending on the parts of the brain that are affected. If your infant shows any of the following signs, it could be a sign that they have CP.

  • Floppy arms and legs
  • The inability to hold their head up
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Involuntary tremors
  • Uncontrolled drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • The inability to crawl or roll over
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Weak grip
  • The inability to clap

Toddlers may also show signs like difficulty with fine motor skills and difficulty with speech. If your child has reached an age where they should be able to color or build a block tower but they can’t, it may be a cause for concern. 

How Babies Are Affected

There are several different types of cerebral palsy, and each one will affect a child differently. The effects of the disorder can range from mild impairment to a lifetime of disability. This overview of the types of CP will give you a general idea of what you can expect.

Mild Cerebral Palsy

Mild cases of cerebral palsy may be especially difficult to recognize in a baby. The symptoms can include difficulty controlling the feet or hands, or muscle stiffness. A child can also experience speech delays, cognitive difficulties, and intellectual disabilities

Hemiplegia

Hemiplegia in infants is a condition in which the baby is unable to move one side of its body. It happens when the part of the brain that controls muscle movements is damaged before, during, or after the birth process. 

Quadriplegia

Quadriplegia is the most severe form of cerebral palsy because it affects the entire body. When a baby has this condition, it will often be apparent at birth. Your baby may have difficulty controlling their head or body movements.

If you see any of these signs in your baby, it is important to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. Take your baby to the pediatrician to discuss your concerns. 

Testing for Cerebral Palsy

When a newborn shows signs of cerebral palsy, neonatal specialists will perform tests immediately after birth. Babies with lower Apgar test scores are more likely to have neurological conditions. There is no single test for CP. Instead, doctors use a variety of tests to rule out other conditions and support the diagnosis. 

An infant will receive a thorough neurological and physical exam when CP is suspected. This will include assessing the baby’s ability to suck and swallow. The baby’s vital signs and reflexes will also be assessed. 

CT or MRI scans may be used to get a picture of the infant’s brain that can reveal any defects or damage. Doctors may also use EOS imaging or X-rays to see what is happening inside the baby’s body, such as skeletal deformities or unusual bone alignment.

The sooner you have your child evaluated, the sooner doctors can begin planning a course of treatment. Children who begin treatment earlier may have better outcomes. Another reason it’s important to visit the doctor is to begin collecting documentation. You may need this if you decide to file a lawsuit to help cover the cost of your child’s care.