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When asked what they want most for their baby, most expectant parents will say “I just hope they’re healthy.” It’s a common refrain as we prepare for a little one’s arrival.

While most parents get exactly what they wish for, some births take an unexpected turn and lead to lifelong complications for the baby. One of the most common birth injuries a newborn can experience is cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture. It is caused by damage to an immature, developing brain. Most often, these injuries occur before birth, but signs and symptoms appear in infancy or even as late as the preschool years.

Symptoms Of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy’s effect on a baby’s functional abilities varies. Some grow up to be able to walk while others can’t. Some will show normal or near-normal intellectual capacity while others experience intellectual disabilities.

Some of the movement and coordination problems associated with the disorder include:

  • Being too stiff or too floppy in muscle tone
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Stiff muscles, either with exaggerated or normal reflexes
  • Tremors or involuntary movements
  • Slow, writhing movements
  • Delays in reaching motor skills milestones, such as pushing up on arms, sitting alone, crawling, etc.
  • Favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with only one hand or dragging a leg while crawling
  • Difficulty walking, such as walking on toes
  • Excessive drooling or problems with swallowing
  • Speech development difficulty

Cerebral palsy can be limited primarily to one limb or one side of the body, or it can affect the whole body. The symptoms don’t worsen with age, but muscle shortening and rigidity can worsen if not treated.

Getting Help

The most common type of the disorder is spastic cerebral palsy, and the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital can evaluate a child to determine an appropriate treatment strategy.

Treatment for cerebral palsy can feel overwhelming and expensive, so parents who dealt with complications during birth may want to consider if those complications were caused by a doctor’s negligence. If they were, there may be validity to pursue a medical malpractice claim.

With the right treatment, a child can go on to live a happy, fulfilling life. That’s what all parents ultimately hope for their little one.