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What are the early signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in a baby?

View profile for Guy Pomphrey
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Cerebral Palsy can be difficult to spot, particularly in a very young or new-born baby. In many cases, the condition is not diagnosed until the child is a few years old because symptoms only start to appear as the child develops or misses developmental milestones. 

However, diagnosing cerebral palsy early can have many benefits, such as:

  • Enabling early assessment of the child’s needs and starting therapies that could boost their long-term quality of life. For example, physiotherapy to improve the child’s range of movement and prevent potentially painful side-effects of Cerebral Palsy
  • Helping the child’s parents understand and come to terms with their child’s condition
  • Removing the fear and stress that can be caused by caring for a child whose needs are not fully understood

Below, we outline some of the early common signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy. If you suspect that your baby may be showing signs of Cerebral Palsy, it is important to talk to your GP who can provide advice and refer to you a specialist team to carry out an assessment.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a neurological condition resulting in disorders affecting movement and co-ordination. It is caused by injury to the brain and in many cases is due to complications before, during or soon after birth.

For more information, visit our page on Cerebral Palsy.

What are the early common signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy? It is often difficult to detect signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy until a child reaches the age of 2 or 3.  In our experience, we know that doctors look for the following more common signs and symptoms of Cerebral Palsy: 

  1. Abnormal muscle tone

A child with Cerebral Palsy may have low muscle tone and reduced muscle strength, also known as hypotonia. Babies with hypotonia often feel floppy when they are picked up and they may have very little or no control of their neck muscles.

Babies with Cerebral Palsy can alternatively show signs of high muscle tone, also known as hypertonia.  This can result in arms and legs being stiff, crossed and/or difficult to move. 

  1. Muscle spasms

Having increased muscle tone can often cause involuntary limb movements such as muscle spasms and contractions. This may involve shaky muscles in the arms and legs and twitching. 

  1. Unusual posture

Children with Cerebral Palsy may tend to use one side of their body more than the other when reaching, crawling and moving. For example, they may reach out with only one hand whilst holding the other in a fist. 

  1. Difficulties with feeding 

A young baby with Cerebral Palsy may have difficulties swallowing milk, as well as poor lip and tongue control. As babies get older, they may struggle to pick up food and put it into their mouth. They may also find it difficult to chew.

  1. Development delays

Delays in reaching key growth milestones are often an indication of Cerebral Palsy. Examples include delay in holding and lifting the head unsupported, rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing and walking.

There are other symptoms of Cerebral Palsy that your child’s treating NHS doctor will likely consider when diagnosing Cerebral Palsy, for example: epilepsy (causing seizures) and problems with eyesight and hearing.

It is important to note that symptoms and the severity of symptoms vary significantly from child to child.

What causes Cerebral Palsy? 

Our team of top ranked medical negligence lawyers specialise in Cerebral Palsy compensation claims.  With our team’s extensive experience in this complex area of law, we usually find that oxygen starvation to the baby at birth (due to a prolonged or difficult labour) is one of the most frequent causes of Cerebral Palsy injuries.  

Cerebral Palsy can also be caused in other ways including an infection passed on to the baby before, during or after the birth, such as meningitis, a bleed on the brain and by other neonatal injuries shortly after birth.   

Case Studies 

Read about some of our clients’ Cerebral Palsy Case Studies here. We recover millions of pounds worth of medical negligence compensation for individuals with Cerebral Palsy and their families every year. 

How we can help you? 

NHS medical negligence cases involving Cerebral Palsy are often very complicated.  Our clinical negligence solicitors are top ranked in the leading independent legal directories for this challenging area of work.  

We understand that any injury to a child is important but a permanent brain injury leading to a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy is devastating.  We can help you investigate the care you and your child received and if substandard care is established, can help your child obtain compensation to support them during their lives.  

For more information, read about why you should choose us to help.

How to contact our team?

Please call us on 0113 245 8549 or complete the Ask Us a Question Form to speak to our specialist Cerebral Palsy lawyers.