We all have reflexes. Many of our physical reactions seem to happen unconsciously, without prior thought or even time to consider what we are doing until after these actions have already occurred. These are our reflexes, and they are often essential for our survival. While some reflexes are present in infancy and remain active for the rest of our lives, others exist for a time and subside during normal development. A baby’s reflexes immediately after birth and in the months that follow are an integral part of infant development. In fact, abnormal reflexes can indicate any number of serious injuries and conditions, including those that occur during the labor and delivery process. For this reason, doctors test a number of reflexes after a baby is born. Abnormalities with regard to these reflexes may prompt further testing to confirm or rule out physical conditions like brachial plexus injuries, as well as neurological conditions and brain damage.
If your baby was born with abnormal reflexes and subsequently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, a peripheral nerve injury, brain damage, or another condition, you may be wondering if the condition was caused by medical negligence. For a free evaluation of your child’s specific case and answers about your potential for a lawsuit in New Jersey, contact our experienced attorneys today. Please feel free to call 866-708-8617 or provide a few details in our form and a member of our team will reach out as soon as possible.
What are Reflexes?
Reflexes are unconscious responses to stimuli. For example, the “gag reflex” refers to the retching or gagging response to stimulation in the throat. This is often extremely useful to prevent choking. Some reflexes are life-long, while others are specifically present in infants. As a child undergoes normal development, they will grow out of certain reflexes.
How do Doctors Test Infant Reflexes?
After an infant is born, doctors and medical professionals will assess a number of important reflexes. These neonatal reflex tests are used to determine if a baby is reacting correctly when exposed to a specific stimulus. The following are reflexes that your baby’s doctor should test for, as well as the standard tests used to determine if the reflex is present and functioning normally.
- Babinski reflex: after stroking the sole of the foot, the big toe should curl upward while the other toes fan out. In adulthood, the toes curl in the opposite direction in response to the same stimulus.
- Asymmetrical tonic neck reflex: if the head is turned to the left, the left arm should reach away from the body with an open hand and the right arm should flex (often referred to as a “fencer” position). The opposite should occur when the head is turned to the right. This reflex typically subsides at approximately 4 months.
- Moro reflex: when the child is put down or feels as though they are falling (usually by loss of support to the head), the Moro reflex causes them to spread out their arms, pull the arms in, and cry. This reflex usually develops between 25 and 30 weeks of gestation and drops off between 3 and 6 months after birth.
- Rooting reflex: connected with breastfeeding. When there is a stimulus, the infant should turn their face toward it. When the lips or cheeks are touched, the appropriate reaction is making a sucking motion.
- Step reflex: also called the stepping or walking reflex, an infant should motion as if they are taking steps or dancing when held upright with their feet touching a solid surface. This reflex typically disappears at approximately 2 months of age.
- Grasp reflex: after placing a finger in the palm of the infant’s hand, the appropriate reaction is to grab hold of the finger and potentially latch on.
- Galant reflex: also known as the truncal incurvation reflex. After stroking along one side of the spine, a newborn should flex toward the stimulus.
Although it is vital for an infant to have these reflexes, they will typically grow out of all of them within the first six months.
What do Reflexes Mean for Neonatal Development?
Testing an infant’s reflexes is one of the critical ways to determine if the child’s brain and nervous system are functioning normally. On the other hand, lack of a certain reflex, a reflex that lasts longer than it should, or a reflex that disappears and returns thereafter, may all be indications that there is a problems with the child’s brain development or that the baby experienced some form of brain injury.
An unhealthy brain can result in a number of serious injuries and conditions, including: Cerebral Palsy, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) brachial plexus injury, infection, a broken collarbone, intracranial hemorrhage, or complications from lack of oxygen during birth (perinatal asphyxia). Issues with neonatal reflexes may also indicate a genetic neurological condition. While sometimes these conditions could not have been prevented, others may be directly linked with inadequate medical care.
Abnormal Reflexes & Birth Injury Diagnosis, Now What?
If your child is missing developmental milestones, has been diagnosed with a birth injury, or he or she has an issue with neurological development, and you suspected errors during or after their birth may have played a role, you may wish to consider your legal options. Doctors and medical staff make mistakes and otherwise fail to provide appropriate care to infants in New Jersey and across the U.S. on a regular basis. Some of these errors result in harmful and extremely expensive medical problems. Your loved one may need extensive treatment and care to cope or recover, the resources for which can be truly astronomical. If you find yourself in this situation, your child may be entitled to compensation. Contact us at 866-708-8617 for additional information. Our team of lawyers has extensive knowledge in the realm of birth injury litigation and we are available 24/7 to discuss your case in a no cost, no obligation consultation.