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Why the Size of Your Baby’s Head Matters for Cerebral Palsy Risk

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The size of your baby’s head, also known as head circumference, may be an important factor in predicting brain damage and cerebral palsy, new research says.

In order to understand the significance of these findings, we must first provide some background. Previous medical research has established the link between white matter damage (WMD) and cerebral palsy. In other words, if a newborn has suffered some damage to the white matter in their brain during or after birth, they are at an increased risk for cerebral palsy. White matter is a substance contained in the deeper (subcortical) tissues of the brain. It is composed of various nerve fibers and cells, all of which are surrounded by a white myelin sheath, hence the term “white matter.”

When white matter in the brain is damaged during labor and delivery, a newborn may suffer severe complications, including brain damage and cerebral palsy. However, white matter damage and associated cerebral palsy was previously thought to be a risk for premature infants, as opposed to babies born full term. With this in mind, doctors typically use head imaging to screen preterm babies for white matter damage to identify potential cerebral palsy. By overlooking the need for imaging of the head in seemingly “normal” newborns, doctors have missed an entire population of babies who may be diagnosed with brain damage and cerebral palsy years after birth.

This new research, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology International, sought to address an entirely neglected population of children who may have benefited from early cerebral palsy diagnosis. Specifically, researchers explored the potential relationship between cephalopelvic disproportion, prolonged labor, white matter damage, and cerebral palsy. Cephalopelvic disproportion simply refers to a situation in which the baby is too large or the mother’s pelvis is too small, making it difficult or impossible for the infant to travel through the birth canal.

When a baby has a large head, this may lead to a prolonged labor and possible Cesarean (C-section). In many cases, prolonged labor places undue stress on the mother and baby, creating an increased risk for fetal distress-related complications and birth injury. With this in mind, researchers in the recent study evaluated 4,725 ultrasound screenings of infants to develop an index for measuring head circumference, length, and weight. Ultimately, they found that head circumference at birth is a prime indicator of potential white matter damage in term-born infants.

By uncovering this vital finding, the study exposed a new and important risk factor for cerebral palsy and birth injuries, which doctors should take into account when assessing newborns in their care. Implementing head imaging and measuring head circumference among full-term newborns who may have experienced cephalopelvic disproportion and prolonged labor can assist doctors in diagnosing cerebral palsy soon after birth. Early diagnosis of brain damage and cerebral palsy allows parents and caregivers to seek treatments and therapies for their children sooner, as opposed to recognizing potential signs of cerebral palsy in childhood when their children begin missing developmental milestones.

Has Your Child been Diagnosed with Brain Damage?

If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or experienced brain damage in utero, during labor and delivery, or after birth, it is critical to become familiar with the legal options that may be available to you. The medical expenses associated with caring for a child with brain damage or cerebral palsy may leave you feeling like you’re drowning with nowhere to turn. However, your may have legal recourse if a medical error contributed to your child’s condition.

Our experienced New Jersey birth injury attorneys can provide you with more information about the correlation between medical negligence, brain damage, and birth injuries. We can also explain your legal rights and how we can help you pursue compensation for your child’s medical expenses, as well as pain and suffering. For a free consultation with a skilled NJ cerebral palsy lawyer, contact us now at 866-708-8617 or fill out our online form to arrange a free case evaluation.

Resource: Large Head Circumference at Birth May Predict Risk of Brain Damage, Cerebral Palsy, Study Finds

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