What Is Cerebral Palsy?

April 22, 2018
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Life changes when you become a parent. Nothing can prepare you for the adventure until you’re actually living it. However, there are plenty of things parents can learn about their baby by regularly monitoring their child’s development.

It can be worrisome if a child doesn’t seem to develop normally. And one of the scariest news a parent can receive is notifications that their baby has cerebral palsy.

What is it? How does it happen? How will this affect your family’s life?

We’re here to help answer these questions for you.

What is cerebral palsy?

To understand cerebral palsy (CP), one must first understand motor skills. These are the fundamental muscle movements humans learn in order to perform tasks like crawling, walking, running, swimming, and jumping.

When people use their muscles to perform any of the abovementioned actions, they use their gross motor skills.

For actions that require moving smaller muscles (such as moving your fingers to pick something up or tie your shoes, wiggling your toes, or talking), a person uses fine motor skills.

When a person has cerebral palsy, their motor skills are affected. They may not be able to perform regular tasks, such as standing or walking, or they may have uncontrollable muscle movements.

In more severe cases, the patient may have trouble swallowing or controlling their bladder or bowel movements.

In addition, cerebral palsy may also impair a person’s cognitive abilities. This means their ability to pay attention, process information, and use reasoning skills.

What causes cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is usually caused by brain injury or malformation. Causes include:

  • Trauma
  • Improper nutrition during pregnancy
  • Lack of oxygen during delivery
  • Sexually transmitted diseases in the mother
  • Infectious diseases of the mother or child, such as meningitis or Zika
  • Thyroid problems of the mother
  • Multiple births
  • Premature birth
  • Severe jaundice
  • Genetic or environmental factors

How will cerebral palsy impact a child’s life?

Not all children diagnosed with cerebral palsy will have the same issues. The condition can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Mild cerebral palsy: The child will require assistance doing some of his or her tasks. It’s possible that only one limb may be affected, or have issues with balance. Sometimes, special glasses or a walker will be necessary for the child to live their life as best as possible. Some of these children are verbal and have their full intellectual capabilities.

Moderate cerebral palsy: The child will likely need medication, possibly a brace or a wheelchair, or walk with a limp. The person may also have speech impediments.

Severe cerebral palsy: The impact will depend on the severity of the brain injury. A person with severe cerebral palsy may not have use of their limbs and may have an inability to communicate or do regular bodily functions without assistance. They may need a diaper or may experience muscle tremors or seizures. Their cognitive abilities and motor skills are severely impaired.

Signs of Cerebral Palsy in Babies

While a doctor can often diagnose cerebral palsy soon after birth, sometimes the parents won’t notice anything wrong with their baby until later on. The majority of children are diagnosed within the first two years of a child’s life.

Some early signs are a failure to reach typical milestones during a baby’s development, such as:

  • Rolling over
  • Holding up their head
  • Sitting up
  • Holding their posture
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Grasping items

As the baby develops, he or she should start smiling at familiar faces, laughing, attempting to take toys to their mouth, and eventually, attempting to get up and be able to put their weight on their legs.

If a child is not achieving any of the usual milestones for babies their age, it may be a sign of cerebral palsy.

Related article: Caring for a Child with Cerebral Palsy

Contact Care Options for Kids for Cerebral Palsy Home Care

When a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, his or her entire family is affected. And depending on your specific circumstances, you may need additional help providing the best care possible for your son or daughter.

At Care Options for Kids, our goal is to build relationships based on trust, so our patients can live their lives to the fullest. We understand that looking into home health care services can be overwhelming, especially when the care is for your child.

Contact us to discuss your needs and to find out what would be the best option for the best care of your child. We’ll be happy to help you.

If you are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.