Slow baby growth during pregnancy can cause cerebral palsy
Tips on how to lower the risk of fetal growth restriction
As a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled numerous cerebral palsy cases. Some of the cases have focused on brain injuries caused by a lack of oxygen during labor, delivery, and birth, while others have involved prenatal issues or care that resulted in brain injuries to babies.
Generally speaking, cerebral palsy is a brain disorder that prevents a person from being able to move normally. Over 750,000 Americans have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It is the most common type of physical disability in children.
I have handled cases for clients with mild cerebral palsy, where the child can walk and talk. I have also represented clients at the other extreme, who could not communicate and were essentially restricted to a bed or wheelchair.
About 20 percent of people diagnosed with cerebral palsy developed it because of injuries that occurred during labor, delivery, and birth. A whopping 70 percent of cerebral palsy patients developed brain injuries because of prenatal injuries or care.
A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that one prenatal condition, fetal growth restriction, is associated with a statistically significant increased risk of cerebral palsy in pregnancies where the mother has normal blood pressure.
Fetal growth restriction—also called intrauterine growth restriction—is a condition where the unborn baby does not grow at the expected normal rate while still inside the womb.
While the worst possible result of fetal growth restriction is cerebral palsy, it can also cause a host of other problems for babies. These other disorders include meconium aspiration (inhaling fecal matter while still in the uterus, which can cause breathing problems), compromised immune system, low oxygen levels, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), low birth weight, and an increasing challenge for the baby to endure the stresses of natural delivery.
Causes of fetal growth restriction
There are a number of possible causes for intrauterine grown restriction. A common cause is a problem with the functioning of placenta. The placenta is the lifeline between the mother and her unborn baby.
In addition, some health conditions of mothers can cause fetal growth restriction, including malnutrition, diabetes, anemia, smoking, drug abuse, high blood pressure, and certain infections.
Lowering the risk
The best way to deal with fetal growth restriction is to prevent it. Fortunately, there are some things that can be done to lower the risk of this disorder and improve the odds of a successful pregnancy and healthy baby.
Experts recommend that pregnant mothers keep all of their OB/GYN prenatal appointments. Several important things should happen at these visits.
First, the OB/GYN doctor should take and document measurements that are used to see if the unborn baby’s growth is on pace. One of the most common measurements is called fundal height—the distance from the mother’s fundus (top of her uterus) to the public bone. Half-way through the pregnancy (week 20), this measurement, in centimeters, usually is the same as the number of weeks of the pregnancy.
Second, the OB/GYN physician should compare ultrasound measurements of the baby’s head and abdomen to growth charts, to see if the baby is growing as expected. An ultrasound can also be used to perform a Doppler flow test to make sure that blood flow is adequate.
Third, at each prenatal visit, the doctor should check and document the mom’s weight. If a mom is not gaining weight during the pregnancy, it could be a sign that the baby is not growing properly.
For expectant moms, I think it is a good idea to ask your OB/GYN at each visit how your baby’s growth is progressing and if there are any concerns about your weight gain or loss.
In addition, there are some things that you should focus on outside of your doctor’s visits. Before you take any medication or supplements during your pregnancy, get it cleared by your OB/GYN. Be meticulous about your own healthy habits, including eliminating alcohol, smoking, and, of course, any recreational drugs. Finally, remember that you know your body. Thus, if you are pregnant and notice anything unusual about your health or how you feel, the safest course is to notify to your OB/GYN doctor immediately.
We are here to help
If you or someone you care about has had a baby with a brain injury or any disability that you think may have been caused by poor medical care, call 281-580-8800, for a free consultation with an experienced Houston medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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On 4/1/2018, the new law will end the current practice where doctors can secretly enter a DNR order against patient and family wishes
This article was originally published in the September/October 2017 edition of "The Houston Lawyer" magazine
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