Birth Injury Guide https://www.birthinjuryguide.org A comprehensive resource for families coping with birth trauma Sat, 21 Jul 2018 19:09:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 What are the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Erb’s Palsy? https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/07/what-are-causes-symptoms-treatment-of-erbs-palsy/ Sat, 21 Jul 2018 19:07:57 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15711 Erb’s palsy is a condition that is often confused with cerebral palsy because both are associated with nerve damage and paralysis.  Though similar, the causes and symptoms of Erb’s palsy are different than those associated with cerebral palsy.  Read on …

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Erb’s palsy is a condition that is often confused with cerebral palsy because both are associated with nerve damage and paralysis.  Though similar, the causes and symptoms of Erb’s palsy are different than those associated with cerebral palsy.  Read on to learn more Erb’s palsy, the causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options.

What are the Types and Causes of Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is also known as brachial plexus birth palsy.  This condition is most commonly caused by abnormal or complicated labor and delivery that results in stretching or tearing of the nerves and muscles in the neck.  Such stretching or tearing is often classified as a brachial plexus injury because of the system of nerves in the neck and shoulder by the same name.

The brachial plexus network controls nerves and muscles in the shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, and hands.  These nerves run from the neck down the spine.  Because of the nature of the injuries leading to Erb’s palsy, the condition is often noticeable immediately or shortly after birth.

During abnormal or complicated labor or delivery, the baby’s head and neck may be pulled to one side in order to pass the shoulders through the birth canal.  In more difficult deliveries, such as feet-first, or if the baby’s head become “stuck” in the birth canal, the person delivering the baby may have to pull harder.  This forceful delivery can put pressure on the arms, shoulders, neck, and head, causing injuries to the nerves.

Depending on the damage done to the brachial plexus nerves, Erb’s palsy may be diagnosed as one of four types.  These types include:

  • Neuropraxia: Also called “stingers” or “burners”, neuropraxia is the most common type of nerve injury. This injury is characterized by stretching of the nerves, but not a tear.  In most cases, neuropraxia heals within three months of the injury with few side effects.
  • Neuroma: A neuroma is a more serious injury, caused by more severe stretching of the nerve fibers. As a neuroma heals, scar tissue can build up along the nerves, which press on tissue and cause discomfort.  A neuroma is more difficult to treat, and long-term recovery is generally only partially successful.
  • Rupture: When nerves stretch to the point of tearing, it is called a rupture injury. Ruptures are severe, and require surgery to repair, or graft, the nerves back together.  Ruptures do not heal on their own.
  • Avulsions: Avulsion is the most serious type of nerve injury. This injury occurs when the nerves are completely torn away from the spinal cord.  When this happens, the damaged nerve cannot be reattached.  The only possible treatment is splicing together nerves from other parts of the body.  The outcome varies.

Risk Factors for Erb’s Palsy

The causes and risk factors for Erb’s palsy are similar, including abnormal or difficult labor or delivery.  There are some additional risk factors that parents should be aware of, however, which may be relevant before labor begins.  These risk factors include:

  • Excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy
  • Large infant size
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Prolonged second stage of labor (lasting over one hour)
  • Use of assistive birthing tools, such as forceps or vacuum
  • History of difficult births or Erb’s palsy

Sometimes during labor and delivery, complications are unavoidable.  However, many brachial plexus injuries are the result of improper handling of an abnormal or difficult birth.  When doctors use too much force, delay delivery, fail to recognize complications, or improperly use birthing tools, the chances of a birth injury like brachial plexus injuries increases.  If you are concerned that your child’s Erb’s palsy is the result of doctor negligence or recklessness, contact Brown & Brothers today.

What are the Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy?

The symptoms of Erb’s palsy may vary depending on the type and severity of the injury.  The most common symptoms include:

  • Weakness in one arm
  • Holding one arm against the body with a bent elbow
  • Lack of, or decreased grip strength in affected hand
  • Numbness in the arm or hand
  • Impaired muscular, circulatory, or nervous development
  • Paralysis in affected arm (partial or total)
  • Pain on affected side

Every brachial plexus injury is unique, and your child’s overall health will also impact symptoms and their severity.

Treatment Options for Erb’s Palsy

Much like the symptoms, treating Erb’s palsy will depend on the extent of the injury and your child’s overall health.  As a general rule, treatment options will include:

  • Mild Injuries: Most mild stretch or tear injuries will heal on their own without much, if any, medical intervention. In most cases, mild injuries heal within three to six months.
  • Moderate to Severe Injuries: More serious injuries may not heal without assistance. These injuries may require interventions, such as:
    • Physical therapy: Improves mobility and movement, reduces pain, and increases strength
    • Occupational therapy: Improves strength and coordination. Occupational therapy is a very helpful method of improving a child’s ability to function in day-to-day activities, such as holding items, playing, and exercising.
    • Surgery: The most severe cases of Erb’s palsy may require surgical intervention. Surgery is done to repair nerves and restore as much function as possible.  When surgery is necessary, it is best to perform the procedure as soon as possible to improve outcomes.

Talk to your child’s doctor about treatment options that are right for him or her.  With conditions like Erb’s palsy, treatment is often most effective when it includes a team of healthcare providers working together to address all possible factors.

Learn More about Erb’s Palsy

To learn more about Erb’s palsy, visit our Birth Injury Guide topics that are full of information.  If you would like to speak to an attorney about Erb’s palsy caused by medical negligence, fill out our online form to schedule a free case review with one of our attorneys.

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What You Need to Know about New Federal Safety Standards for Baby Changing Products https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/07/new-federal-safety-standards-baby-changing-products/ Sun, 15 Jul 2018 16:26:08 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15638 The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has approved new federal safety standards for baby changing products.  As a parent, you want to make sure that the products you use for your family are safe.  Here is what you need to …

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The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has approved new federal safety standards for baby changing products.  As a parent, you want to make sure that the products you use for your family are safe.  Here is what you need to know about the new federal safety standards and how it could impact the products you use for your family.

New Federal Safety Standards for Baby Changing Products

According to the CPSC, the federal safety standards are aimed at improving the safety of baby changing products including tables, accessories, add-on changing units, and changing pads.  The new standards include the ASTM International standard ASTM F2388-18, which is the Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Baby Changing Products for Domestic Use.

The ASTM standard relates to hazard patterns associated with consumer use of baby changing products, and includes specific requirements related to structural and restraint-system integrity, warning labels, and instructional literature.  The new standards do not apply to baby changing products used in public restrooms or facilities.

Infant and toddler products are required to meet certain standards under the Danny Keysar Child Product Safety Notification Act, which is Section 104(b) of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA).  The Commission has approved the new federal safety standards for infant and toddler products classified as durable, including the following products:

  • Full-size cribs
  • Non-full-size cribs
  • Play yards (playpen, pack-and-play)
  • Baby walkers
  • Baby bath seats
  • Children’s portable bed rails
  • Strollers
  • Toddler beds
  • Infant swings
  • Handheld and soft infant carriers
  • Bassinets
  • Cradles
  • Portable hook-on chairs
  • Sling carriers
  • Infant bouncer seats
  • Infant high chairs

The Commission made a unanimous vote to approve the new safety standards in June 2018.  The new standards are said to become effective on June 26, 2019.

Federal Safety Standards Aimed at Improving Safety

According to the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), from 2005 to 2016, more than 39,000 injuries to infants and children under three years old were related to baby changing products.  This estimate includes only children treated at U.S.  hospital emergency rooms.  The number may actually be higher.

Between 2005 and 2017, the CPSC has received 188 reports of incidents involving baby changing products.  Of these 188 incidents, 31 injuries were reported, and seven deaths.  In the nonfatal incidents, the primary cause was structural integrity issues causing a hazard.  In the incidents where death was reported, the cause of death was primarily listed as asphyxia, or suffocation.  In most of these cases, an infant was sleeping on the baby changing product at the time of the incident.

Product safety standards are also aimed at improving the manufacturing process to ensure that products are safe and effective for consumer use.  When products are defective, consumers are at risk of illness or injury that could have been avoided.  Unfortunately, infant and children’s products, such as car seats and changing tables, are often the subject of warnings and recalls due to defects or other dangers.

If you have questions about product safety, or believe that you have been injured by a defective product, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our attorneys about your legal rights as a consumer.

What Parents Need to Know about Baby Changing Product Safety

One of the new safety standards that baby changing product manufacturers will have to abide by is more strict rules about warning labels and instructions for use.  This is important for parents to ensure that infant or toddler items are being properly used and maintained.

When choosing a changing table or other infant or toddler products, consider the following safety tips:

  • Choose a changing table that is flat and has a guardrail.
  • Changing table pads should be lower in the middle and higher on the sides to prevent the infant from rolling off the table.
  • Changing tables that are wood and have rails are the least likely to sway or tip over when placed on the floor.
  • If you use a fold-up model, check it for sturdiness before use. Give the product a good shake and test the pad to make sure it will not fold up.

In terms of safety when using baby changing products, consider the following:

  • Keep changing items in a nearby drawer or on a shelf. Products should be easily in reach of you, but not your baby.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics reminds parents to never leave their child unattended while on a changing table or within reach of changing products.
  • If your changing table is equipped with a safety belt, use it every time you change your baby.
  • Pay attention to the age or weight limit of changing tables and other products. Once your child has reached those maximum recommendations, stop using the products in order to avoid possible malfunction.

Have Questions about Product Safety?

As a consumer, you put your trust in manufacturers to provide products that are safe and effective.  Unfortunately, that does not always happen.  Products can be manufactured with defects, or can malfunction.  Labels can be incorrect, or there may be no labels at all with warnings or instructions.

To find out more about your legal rights as a consumer, and what options you may have if you have been injured by a defective baby changing product or other product, contact Brown & Brothers.  Schedule a free case review with one of our attorneys by filling out our online form, or by calling us at 1-877-415-6603.

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Study Shows Forceps Deliveries Causing Increasing Trauma to Moms and Babies https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/07/study-forceps-deliveries-increasing-trauma-moms-babies/ Fri, 06 Jul 2018 15:55:42 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15568 A new study shows that forceps deliveries are causing increasing trauma to moms and babies in Canada.  The use of forceps during delivery is highly controversial, and many experts and researchers have warned that doctors are not properly trained to …

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A new study shows that forceps deliveries are causing increasing trauma to moms and babies in Canada.  The use of forceps during delivery is highly controversial, and many experts and researchers have warned that doctors are not properly trained to use the tools in a way that reduces the risk of injury.  Continued efforts to reduce the number of Cesarean section (c-section) deliveries may have led to an increase in forceps deliveries, which further highlights the importance of proper training and safety.

Unfortunately, a significant number of U.S.  medical residents have reported feeling ill prepared to properly use forceps during delivery.  In 2007, around half of reporting graduates felt “competent” using the tool.  Currently, the United States, Canada, and Australia are among the nation’s leading the conflict and searching for ways to prevent injuries and promote safer deliveries.

Forceps Deliveries Causing Increasing Trauma to Moms and Babies

A study published in June 2018 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviewed nearly two million deliveries across Canada between 2004 and 2015.  The study found that the overall rates of physical injuries to women – lacerations, severe tears, injured pelvic organs, injured joints and ligaments – increased among both first-time mothers, and mothers with a history of c-section deliveries.

The increases in injuries were concentrated among women who had “operative” vaginal deliveries – meaning forceps deliveries or vacuum-assisted deliveries.  The most significant increase in injuries was among forceps deliveries, which included:

  • An increase from 19.4 percent in 2004 to 26.5 percent in 2014 among first-time mothers.
  • An increase from 17 percent in 2004 to 26 percent in 2014 among mothers with a history of c-section deliveries.
  • An increase in fetal trauma from 4.5 to 6.8 injuries per 1,000 deliveries between 2004 and 2014.

This study is not the first to show significant increases in injuries to mothers and babies when assistive tools are used.  In 2017, the University of British Columbia reported that severe birth trauma rates were five to ten times higher among deliveries where the baby’s head was midway through the birth canal.

Both studies highlight a potentially dangerous trend as the increased use of forceps and vacuums is clearly causing the rates of injury to increase as well.  As for the types of injuries reported, the most common maternal injury was severe perineal tears, or tears to the skin below the vagina.  The most common injuries to babies were brachial plexus injuries – injuries to the nerves and tissue leading from the spinal cord to the neck and down the arm.

At Brown & Brothers, we have managed numerous cases involving brachial plexus injuries, many of which involved improper use of assistive tools like forceps.  If you or your child was injured during birth, and you believe that a healthcare provider’s improper or negligent actions led to those injuries, contact us today to learn more about your rights as a patient.

Healthcare System in Conflict in Canada and United States

The healthcare environment in Canada and the U.S.  is in the midst of conflict over how best to facilitate labor and delivery.  One side of the argument claims that c-section rates are too high, and urges doctors to use alternative methods, including forceps and vacuums.  The other side, which includes increasing research support, claims that increasing rates of injuries should be a warning sign that doctors should avoid assistive tools unless absolutely necessary.

There are many risks involved with using forceps, with the most common injuries being:

Maternal Injuries:

  • Tears to the perineal region/lower genitals
  • Perineum pain
  • Bladder injuries
  • Urethra injuries
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence
  • Anemia/bleeding problems

Infant Injuries:

  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Facial injuries and paralysis
  • Bruising or swelling of the head
  • Skull fractures
  • Brain damage
  • Seizures

Any of these injuries can be damaging and can present complications if not properly diagnosed and treated.  It is important to discuss any risks associated with labor and delivery, and possible tools used, prior to consenting to any procedure.

You may also find it helpful to discuss options like assistive tools with your doctor during your prenatal appointments.  Find out how comfortable your doctor is with using these tools, and whether he or she has training specifically for their use.  This is also a great time to address your concerns about using assistive tools or the possibility of options like a c-section.

Understanding Your Legal Rights and Healthcare Choices

During a stressful and emotional situation like childbirth, it can be difficult to keep a calm, clear head when making decisions.  You should know that your healthcare provider is responsible for making sure that you understand potential risks to any procedure before he or she begins.  That includes procedures involving birthing tools like forceps or vacuums.

As a patient, you have the right to choose not to consent to a procedure or use of a certain tool.  If you are not comfortable with your doctor using forceps or a vacuum, you have the right to speak up and seek alternative options.  Depending on your situation and overall health, your options may vary, but you still have the right to choose the healthcare options that are best for you.

If, at any time, you have questions or concerns about your legal rights related to healthcare, contact Brown & Brothers to learn more.  When it comes to medical malpractice or birth injuries, every case is unique, and you deserve to get answers and find out if you qualify for a legal remedy.  To request a free case review with one of our birth injury attorneys, fill out our online form or call us at 1-877-415-6603.

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Can My Child Play Sports after a Brachial Plexus Injury? https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/06/child-play-sports-after-brachial-plexus-injury/ Wed, 27 Jun 2018 21:22:24 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15513 If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury during, or shortly after birth, you may be wondering about his or her future mobility or limitations.  One question many parents ask is “can my child play sports after a brachial plexus …

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If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury during, or shortly after birth, you may be wondering about his or her future mobility or limitations.  One question many parents ask is “can my child play sports after a brachial plexus injury?” Many parents have high hopes that their children will inherit a love of a certain sport, or will be athletic and active in general.  Brachial plexus or other birth injuries may seem to dampen such hopes.

To help answer the question of whether a brachial plexus injury will impact a child’s athleticism or abilities, let’s take a closer look at this type of birth injury, how an injury could impact your child, and what options you may have to support your child’s athletic goals.

What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?

A brachial plexus injury is an injury that damages the bundle of nerves in the neck.  These nerves support and power the shoulders, arms, and fingers.  Brachial plexus injuries are most commonly associated with an infant getting stuck during delivery.  If the doctor has to pull the baby, use more force, or use assistive tools like forceps, the nerves and tendons may be stretched.

Estimates suggest that brachial plexus injuries only occur in one or two out of every 1,000 live births.  The most common first signs of an injury is a lack of movement on one side of the body.  Depending on the severity, the difference in movement between sides may be mild or dramatic.

While sometimes nerve injuries are caused by complications or other factors outside a doctor’s control, some of these injuries are caused by negligence.  Doctors must be very careful in how they manage complicated or difficult births, and must make decisions that will prevent injuries from occurring.  When they fail to take proper steps, fail to diagnose complications, or fail to order alternatives like a Cesarean section in a timely manner, they may be negligently contributing to your child’s injury.

If you believe that your child suffered a brachial plexus injury as a result of doctor negligence, contact Brown & Brothers to learn more about birth injuries and your legal rights.

How Serious are Brachial Plexus Injuries?

As mentioned above, the severity of the injury will have an impact on how it affects your child.  Around 90 percent of these injuries only involve stretching, and do not tear the nerves.  That is great news because treatment often does not require surgery.  More severe injuries, however, may require surgery to repair torn nerves.

The most commonly reported long-term impact of brachial plexus injuries include:

  • Shoulder weakness
  • Difficulty rotating the shoulder
  • Elbow flexion problems
  • Loss of sensation

Even with these long-term impacts, many doctors encourage families to be active and support athletic goals.  Dr.  Joseph Styron, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, says he has seen numerous children with brachial plexus injuries go on to wrestle, swim, play football, and become varsity or college athletes.

What are Treatment Options for Brachial Plexus Injuries?

Brachial plexus injuries are often identified shortly after birth.  Treatment generally begins in the days or weeks following diagnosis.  Depending on the severity of the injury and any other comorbid conditions or impacts, treatment may include:

  • Physical Therapy: Many brachial plexus injuries can be resolved with physical therapy. Physical therapy includes specialized exercises designed to stretch joints and keep them loose.  These exercises specifically target the affected areas of the body and take into consideration the delicate nature of joints and nerves.
  • Nerve Transfer: More serious nerve injuries may require a surgical procedure called nerve transfer. During this procedure, surgeons use nearby functioning nerves and “plug” them in to injured or nonfunctioning nerves.  This helps restore function.
  • Tendon Transfer: Similar to nerve transfer, a tendon transfer is a procedure where surgeons release one end of a healthy tendon from the connecting soft tissue or bone, and reconnect it to another tendon, which may be damaged. This procedure can help restore function and mobility.

One of the most important elements of treating a brachial plexus injury is initiating treatment as early as possible.  As a parent, it can be extremely helpful to work with a team of healthcare providers, including physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, and if applicable, plastic surgeons.

What Parents Can Do to Support Children with Brachial Plexus Injuries

As you work through treatment options, it is important that you support your child’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.  There are several things you can do as a parent to help support and encourage your child to work with their injury, rather than against it.  Consider the following:

  • Avoid treating your child differently: Of course, you and your child will acknowledge the injury and any side effects, but it is important to avoid treating your child differently. Encourage him or her to be active, play with peers, and be competitive.  Help your child understand their injury and not view it as a disability.
  • Know the limits: Part of understanding an injury and its impact is understanding what limits the injury has caused. Learning about any limitations is an important part in helping your child develop strategies to compensate or adapt.
  • Learn ways to adapt: Help your child develop ways to adapt when being active. If there are deficits in movement or ability, help him or her learn how to use other parts of their body to compensate and offset.  Adapting movements can help your child be active and athletic, and can open doors for school or other sport activities.
  • Be aware: As a parent, it is a good idea to be aware of how your child’s injury may impact them visibly.  In some cases, the affected arm is visibly smaller than the other.  Also, some children do not swing the affected arm when walking.  These impacts generally do not affect your child’s abilities, but can be noticeable to others.

Perhaps the best thing you can do to support your child is to be his or her biggest advocate.  Help your child look past any limitations and see the endless possibilities for the future.  If you are concerned about your child’s legal rights, or are concerned that negligence caused the injury, you may also find it helpful to work with a birth injury attorney to learn more about your situation.

At Brown & Brothers, we work with parents and families who have experienced all sorts of birth injury or medical malpractice.  Contact us to learn more about how we can work with you to protect your child’s legal rights and future pursuits.  Fill out our online form to get started.

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What are the Developmental Impacts of Cerebral Palsy? https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/06/developmental-impacts-cerebral-palsy/ Sat, 16 Jun 2018 17:23:37 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15401 While the physical signs and symptoms associated with cerebral palsy (CP) may be easy to identify, it can be more difficult to identify the developmental impacts of the disorder.  Developmental disorders often involve symptoms that may be confused with physical …

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While the physical signs and symptoms associated with cerebral palsy (CP) may be easy to identify, it can be more difficult to identify the developmental impacts of the disorder.  Developmental disorders often involve symptoms that may be confused with physical or learning disabilities.  In this post, we will address the question – “what are the developmental impacts of cerebral palsy?”

Read on to learn more about the different types of CP and how they impact development.  For more information about CP and birth injuries browse our website, or contact Brown & Brothers to speak with an attorney.

Different Types of Cerebral Palsy

There are four primary types of CP, each with its own set of associated symptoms and patterns.  These four types include:

  • Spastic: Spastic is the most common type of CP, comprising 70-80 percent of all cases. Spastic CP is caused by damage to the motor cortex of the brain, impacting voluntary movement.  Spastic CP often results in awkward or abnormal reflexes, tight joints or muscles, abnormal gait, and stiffness in one or more parts of the body.
  • Ataxic: Ataxic CP is caused by brain damage to the cerebellum. This damage results in difficulty with speaking, shakiness or tremors, widespread gait, and poor depth perception.
  • Athetoid: Athetoid CP is also called dyskinetic or non-spastic CP. Athetoid CP is caused by damage to the cerebellum and/or the basal ganglia.  This results in symptoms such as floppy limbs, poor posture, stiffness, and issues with feeding.
  • Mixed: Mixed cerebral palsy occurs when there is damage to multiple areas of the brain. In these cases, the individual may exhibit symptoms both spastic and non-spastic.

Determining what part of the brain has been damaged is an important step in preparing to treat and manage CP – not only the physical symptoms, but also any related conditions.

Impact of Cerebral Palsy on Developmental Milestones

Sometimes an illness or injury gives parents reason to be concerned that their child could develop CP.  In other cases, parents may not be aware that their child has CP until he or she misses milestones or exhibits signs of delayed growth or development.  It is important to know how cerebral palsy affects development, especially during the early years when growth and development are measured by “milestones”.

Based on the developmental milestones commonly used by doctors, here are some key warning signs that may indicate your child has CP or another developmental disorder:

  • 0-3 Months Old:
    • Poor reflexes
    • Lack of muscle control
    • Floppy or stiff body
    • Lack of sensitivity/response to sound or light
    • Difficulty moving eyes
    • Not smiling by three months old
  • 3-6 Months Old:
    • Poor muscle development
    • Lack of communication (no babbling or laughing)
    • No reaching for objects or handling them
    • No rolling over or sitting up
  • 6 Months to 1 Year Old:
    • Difficulty with gross or fine motor skills
    • Difficulty with oral motor skills
    • Poor coordination
    • Inability to grasp objects
    • Difficulty self-feeding or swallowing
    • Lack of familiarity
    • Favoring one side of the body
  • 1-2 Years Old:
    • Awkward muscle tone
    • Muscle spasms or stiff or jerky movements
    • Delayed physical, cognitive, social, or emotional development
    • No walking by one year old
    • Lack of interest in socialization and play
    • Underdeveloped vocabulary

Every child develops at his or her own pace.  Delays in development does not always mean that your child has a disorder like CP.  Any concerns you have about your child’s development should be discussed with his or her doctor.  There are tests that can be done to examine your child’s brain and review his or her movements to see if there are any abnormalities.

Managing the Developmental Impacts of Cerebral Palsy

If your child has been diagnosed with CP, you are likely concerned about how his or her development will impact the future.  Many people with CP require assistance with daily activities like personal care, meal preparation, and moving around.  The level of care your child will require as he or she grows older will depend on the type of CP, the severity, and the interventions implemented.

There is no “cure” for CP, but there are many options available to help manage symptoms and assist your child as he or she grows and develops.  As an infant, toddler, or young child, treatment options may include:

  • Therapy: There are multiple types of therapy that can benefit someone with CP. The most common are:
    • Physical Therapy: Physical therapy for CP may include specialized strength exercises, stretching and joint mobilization, balance practice, and endurance exercises.
    • Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapy for CP may include exercises to help your child with communication, socialization, play, and learning.
    • Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy for CP may include exercises to help your child understand and manage his or her emotions and responses. Some children with CP develop destructive behaviors, including self-harm, and behavioral therapy can help prevent or manage these behaviors.
  • Medications: Medications prescribed to individuals with CP are designed to help manage symptoms and control pain. The most common medications for CP include muscle relaxers, anti-seizure medication, and anticholinergic medications.
  • Surgery: Depending on the type of CP your child has and related symptoms or disorders, he or she may need to have surgery. Individuals with CP may benefit from surgery to correct hearing or vision, install or manage a medication pump, or orthopedic surgery to control pain or improve movement.

There are many people who live with CP and go on to live full, independent lives.  The key to healthy development for someone with CP is recognizing and understanding the disorder and taking proper steps to manage symptoms and support the individual.

Cerebral Palsy and Your Legal Rights

If your child has CP, of course your primary concern is his or her physical and mental wellbeing.  It is also important to consider his or her legal rights.  If your child’s CP was caused by negligence, such as a birth injury, you may be entitled to compensation that could help cover medical and life care expenses.  Contact Brown & Brothers to learn more by completing our online form.

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Pennsylvania Woman Awarded $4 Million in Pertussis Medical Malpractice Lawsuit https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/06/woman-awarded-4-million-pertussis-medical-malpractice-lawsuit/ Sat, 09 Jun 2018 00:57:36 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15357 A Pennsylvania woman has been awarded $4 million in compensatory damages in a pertussis-related medical malpractice lawsuit.  The lawsuit stems from the 2010 death of her infant daughter, who was just 32 days old at the time of her death.  …

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A Pennsylvania woman has been awarded $4 million in compensatory damages in a pertussis-related medical malpractice lawsuit.  The lawsuit stems from the 2010 death of her infant daughter, who was just 32 days old at the time of her death.  Read on to learn more about this lawsuit, and what you and your family need to know about pertussis and your legal rights.

Pertussis Medical Malpractice Case Information

In March 2016, a medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against Lancaster Pediatric Associates alleging that the 32-day-old infant died due to complications of pertussis.  The lawsuit claimed that the doctors should have diagnosed the infant with pertussis and started treatment sooner.

According to the lawsuit, the mother had been experiencing symptoms of pertussis, and at multiple visits requested the baby be tested.  The mother told doctors that she had recently traveled to an area where a pertussis outbreak had occurred, and she wanted her daughter to be tested.

At two visits, the infant was not exhibiting signs of pertussis, and no action was taken.  Doctors dismissed the mother’s concerns at the time.  The infant had been born three weeks premature, and had developed a cough shortly after her birth.  A subsequent visit to urgent care resulted in the mother being told to use over-the-counter cough suppressants.  After the infant’s condition worsened, an X-ray was performed, and an inhaler was ordered to treat congestion.  The infant was further diagnosed with bronchitis.

Just days after being diagnosed with bronchitis, the infant was rushed to an emergency room where she was described as cyanotic and having seizures.  She was placed on life support and died just six days later.  Her mother filed a medical malpractice lawsuit, and a jury agreed that Lancaster Pediatric Associates and two doctors who subsequently saw the child were at fault 50 percent and 25 percent each, respectively.  Attorneys for the defendants plan to appeal the jury’s decision.

What is Pertussis?

Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, is an incredibly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis.  The bacteria attaches itself to the thin lining of the upper respiratory system (cilia) causing damage and swelling of the airways.  Pertussis is transmitted person-to-person, and may be spread by coughing or sneezing, or simply spending time near someone who is infected and shares the same breathing space.

People who are infected with pertussis may be contagious for up to two weeks after their cough begins.  Antibiotics can help shorten this period, but it is not guaranteed.  The most effective tool to prevent contracting pertussis is being vaccinated, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that like most other vaccinations, the pertussis vaccination is not 100 percent effective.  When an “outbreak” occurs in any community, there is a chance that anyone, even those vaccinated, could contract the disease.

Is Pertussis Dangerous for Babies?

Yes! According to the CDC, pertussis is extremely dangerous for babies, even deadly in some cases.  Babies are most at-risk during the first six months of life, even if they are otherwise completely healthy.  Babies younger than two months old only have limited antibodies from their mother, so they have little protection from diseases like pertussis.

In some cases, babies may be exposed to pertussis before they have been vaccinated, which places them at greater risk of developing the disease or related complications.  According to the CDC, the most dangerous complications of pertussis include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Convulsions
  • Apnea (slow or stopped breathing)
  • Encephalopathy (brain disease)
  • Seizures
  • Death

Many people believe that pertussis, or whooping cough, is a disease that has abated and is no longer a concern now that vaccines are readily available.  According to the CDC, the number of pertussis cases is on the rise and parents should be especially cautious.  Consider the following data:

  • Every year, the CDC responds to 10,000-50,000 cases of pertussis in the United States.
  • Pertussis cases are reported in every state, though outbreaks may impact some statewide statistics.
  • In 2012, there was a record number of cases, with 48,000 cases reported – more than any year out of the past 60.
  • Since 2010, every year, as many as 20 babies die due to pertussis-related complications.
  • Most babies who develop pertussis need treatment in a hospital. Of those, around one out of every four will develop pneumonia.  One or two out of every 100 will die.

What are the Symptoms of Pertussis?

When it comes to pertussis, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to a healthy outcome.  Without properly diagnosing and treating the disease, babies are at a great risk of suffering devastating complications.  For parents, it is important to know what signs and symptoms your infant may exhibit, and get medical attention immediately.  Consider the following symptoms:

Early Onset:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Runny nose
  • Mild, inconsistent cough
  • Apnea

During early onset, the symptoms of pertussis may seem like nothing more than a “common cold”.  It is important to make sure that you and your child have been vaccinated against pertussis, and that your child gets tested if you are concerned about exposure.

Later Stage:

  • Paroxysms (fits of coughing following by a high pitched “whooping” sound)
  • Vomiting during or after fits
  • Exhaustion

In the later stages of the disease, coughing fits become more severe and frequent.  Infants may have difficulty breathing and may be incredibly tired.

It is important to note that pertussis, or whooping cough, doesn’t always include coughing as one of the main symptoms.  Your baby may not have a cough, but may instead suddenly turn blue in color and stop breathing due to swollen airways.

How is Pertussis Diagnosed and Treated?

To diagnose pertussis, healthcare providers consider several factors.  First, they will conduct a complete physical examination, and will review signs and symptoms.  Next, they will conduct a test, which generally consists of a nasal or throat swab.  In some cases, they may also collect a blood sample for analysis.

Healthcare providers should also determine if you or your child have been exposed to pertussis, such as traveling in an outbreak area, or visiting with friends or family that have the disease.  If so, additional tests may be ordered and treated initiated.

The best way to treat pertussis is antibiotics.  There are currently several antibiotics that are effective in treating pertussis, but which one is chosen will depend on your individual situation and overall health.  In most cases, pertussis can be treated at home with antibiotics and other home management tools, such as:

  • A detailed antibiotic schedule
  • Keeping the home clear of irritants such as dust, smoke, or chemical fumes
  • Use of a vaporizer with cool mist to soothe the cough and loosen mucus
  • Use of proper handwashing and hygiene
  • Proper nutrition and hydration plan
  • Careful monitoring for nausea and vomiting

In more severe cases, especially in infants and young children, pertussis may require treatment in a hospital.  In these cases, treatment may include IV fluids and medication, respiratory therapy, and other procedures as needed.

Have Questions about Pertussis Diagnosis, Treatment, or Lawsuits?

If you have questions about the medical standards for diagnosing or treating pertussis, or want to know more about pertussis-related medical malpractice lawsuits, contact Brown & Brothers today.  Our medical malpractice and birth injury attorneys know all too well the devastating consequences of failed or delayed diagnosis.  Learn more about your legal rights and options by filling out our online form.

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How Did C-Sections Begin, and Why are they so Common? https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/05/how-did-c-sections-begin-why-so-common/ Thu, 31 May 2018 01:41:19 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15285 How did c-sections begin, and why are they so common? This is a question on the minds of many, including healthcare professionals, lawmakers, and individuals like you.  A recent article published in Slate online examines the origins of c-sections in …

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How did c-sections begin, and why are they so common? This is a question on the minds of many, including healthcare professionals, lawmakers, and individuals like you.  A recent article published in Slate online examines the origins of c-sections in the United States, as well as various factors that may have contributed to steady increases in the procedure’s use.

At Brown & Brothers, we like to provide information that is useful and interesting. Read on to learn more about the history of c-sections, what factors may have led to its rise, and what you need to know about making healthcare choices that are best for you and your family.

A History of Cesarean Sections

Cesarean sections, or C-sections as they are commonly known, originated in the U.S. in the early 19th century, and continued to become more common as medical advances made the procedure safer.  The first recorded account of a c-section in U.S. history was in 1830.  Dr.  John L.  Richmond went to the rural home of an Ohio family to assist in delivering their child.  The woman had been in labor for hours and had fits of convulsions and fainting between contractions.  Dr.  Richmond administered laudanum and sulphuric ether to help with the convulsions, but was unable to determine why labor was not progressing.

Dr.  Richmond decided that a c-section was the best course of action to hopefully save the mother and child.  As friends and family watched, Dr.  Richmond made an incision, but couldn’t pull the baby out.  In intense pain, the mother begged for him to stop searching through her uterus to locate the baby.  Based on the ethics of the time, a horrifying decision was made.  Dr.  Richmond delivered the baby in pieces through the c-section incision, opting to save the mother’s life.

The horrifying ordeal did save the mother’s life, and she returned to work in less than one month following the procedure.  A thorough examination after she healed revealed that she had an “abnormally shallow vagina with no discernible cervical opening”.

During the 19th century, physicians were trained to allow childbirth to happen as naturally as possible.  Medical intervention was to be facilitated as needed.  Physicians were also trained on the premise that saving the mother’s life was paramount to that of the child.  C-sections were only to be used in dire circumstances and as a last resort.

The 20th century brought about a shift in mindset.  A greater focus was placed on saving the life of the child, as well as the mother.  Physicians became increasingly concerned with infant mortality rates, and the federal government became more involved.  Physicians developed diagnostic tools like the Bishop and Apgar scores.  Advances in medicine had changed the way that women were treated during childbirth, including medications administered.

C-Sections Become Increasingly Common

In the early days of the 20th century, c-sections were still very rare.  By the 1960’s, however, there was a stark increase in the number of c-sections performed in the U.S.  Between 1965 and 1987, c-section rates had increased by 455 percent.  Today, an estimated one in every three babies are born via c-section – a number which is twice the recommended 10-15 percent established by the World Health Organization.

During the mid 20th century there was also an increase in public attention to issues like childbirth and c-sections, largely thanks to the media who covered notable medical events among people like Jackie Kennedy.  Some people believe that increased attention and cultural factors may be part of the reason why the number of c-sections began to increase during these years.

Another possible reason why c-sections have increased is advances in technology.  As electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) became a standard in hospitals, the decision to perform a c-section or not was determined by doctors’ interpretation of the monitor results.  Over time, doctors relied on the information provided by EFM in making their decisions about labor and delivery.

Advances in technology have come a long way toward identifying possible health risks to mother and child, however, which can help doctors determine when a c-section is medically necessary.  Today, doctors can use innovative diagnostic tools to monitor pregnancy, test for possible diseases, and administer treatments during pregnancy.

Doctors also have many more tools at their disposal in terms of helping the childbirth process proceed in the safest way possible.  Doctors and mothers have much greater information and control over the process.

C-Sections in Today’s Medical Environment

Today, c-sections are so common they have been called “unremarkable”.  Many women are given the option of an elective c-section, meaning that they can choose to have a c-section rather than allowing labor and delivery to occur naturally.  There are supporters and opponents to this idea, but many believe the decision should be left up to the woman.

There are also many doctors who prefer c-section deliveries, as well as some hospitals with higher rates of c-sections than others.  There are many reasons for these variables, and it can be difficult to make sense of all the information.  With such a great focus on increases in c-sections and questions of whether the procedure is overused, many women have questions about how to prepare for labor and delivery, and what choices they should make.  One maternal-fetal medicine specialist offers the following advice:

  • Remember that when you choose a doctor, you are also choosing a hospital. Doctors may be affiliated with one or more hospitals, so you should ask upfront what you can expect.
  • Research and evaluate available information about your doctor and his or her hospital of choice for deliveries. Look at reviews, c-section rates, and other information about their services.
  • When choosing a doctor or hospital, Recognize that some hospitals are better equipped than others in terms of labor and delivery, availability of specialists, and specialized departments like a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
  • If you are determined to have a vaginal or natural birth, make sure your doctor knows your wishes and plans immediately. Together, you should create a birth plan that is on par with evidence-based practice, but is tailored to your individual situation and healthcare needs.

C-Sections and Your Legal Rights

While society may see c-sections as commonplace and elective, they are still a major surgical procedure with risks and consequences.  As a patient, you have certain legal rights, and you deserve to know what they are, and how they may affect you as you make important healthcare decisions.

To learn more about your rights, or if you have questions about medical malpractice or birth injuries, contact Brown & Brothers today.  Fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled birth injury attorneys.

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Research Suggests Women Over 40 are at a Greater Risk of Preterm Birth https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/05/research-suggests-women-over-40-are-at-a-greater-risk-of-preterm-birth/ Wed, 16 May 2018 13:28:33 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15164 More often than ever, women are choosing to have children later in life, with many choosing to give birth after age 40.  Researchers now suggest that women over 40 are at a greater risk of preterm birth.  They urge healthcare …

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More often than ever, women are choosing to have children later in life, with many choosing to give birth after age 40.  Researchers now suggest that women over 40 are at a greater risk of preterm birth.  They urge healthcare providers to carefully monitor pregnant women over 40 for signs of complications and preterm birth.

For several years, the rate of preterm births in the United States declined, but recently the rate has started to increase again.  Today, around one out of 10 babies born in the U.S.  is born prior to 37 weeks.  Babies born at 37 to 40 weeks are considered “term”, while those born before 37 weeks are considered “preterm” or “premature“.  Babies born before 32 weeks are considered “extreme preterm”.

Some suggest that the reason for the increase in preterm births is the fact that more women are having babies later in life.  Let’s take a look at what research shows, and why preterm birth is such a significant issue for women.  For more information, visit our website, or contact Brown & Brothers to speak with a birth injury attorney.

Researchers Look at Women Over 40 and Preterm Birth

Maternal age has been a controversial aspect of research on the factors leading to preterm birth.  In January 2018, Canadian researchers published an article in PLOS ONE with the goal of exploring whether maternal age itself has a positive correlation with preterm birth.  Researchers examined data from 184,000 births across 32 hospitals.  The study included only women over 20 years old, and excluded women with multiple pregnancies, malformations, or fetal deaths.

To compare the data, researchers broke down participants into five age categories, and the women were compared for factors including characteristics, gestational or obstetric complications, and risk factors for preterm birth.  Researchers found common factors leading to preterm birth included assisted reproduction techniques, chronic hypertension, gestational diabetes, and placenta previa.

Researchers then adjusted their data to account for the confounders (listed above), and found that women between the ages of 30 to 34 had the lowest risk of preterm birth.  They further reported that maternal age (over 40 years), was associated with preterm birth.

Factors Associated with Preterm Birth

Preventing preterm birth is considered a public health goal.  Researchers urge healthcare providers to be mindful of the following factors that are often associated with preterm birth:

  • History of preterm birth
  • Multiple gestations (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Maternal or fetal infections during pregnancy
  • Smoking or substance abuse during pregnancy
  • Stress during pregnancy
  • Conditions like pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, or HELLP syndrome
  • Some studies show that socioeconomic status and race affect the risk of having a preterm birth. African-American women are more likely to experience preterm birth, as are women of low-socioeconomic status.

Thanks to research like that discussed above, maternal age can now be added as one of the factors associated with preterm birth.  Determining that maternal age is independently associated with an increased risk can help healthcare providers better understand the risks and monitor women during pregnancy.  It is important that women understand all the risks associated with pregnancy, including those based on their age, weight, and overall health.

Risks of Preterm Birth

The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to proper development of the lungs and other vital organs.  Babies who are born prematurely are at an increased risk of health and cognitive problems.  Preterm labor and delivery may lead to:

  • Hearing or vision problems
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Jaundice
  • Anemia
  • Developmental delays
  • Behavioral or emotional problems
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Death

The delicate, and sometimes emergent, nature of preterm birth can also increase the risk of birth injuries.  Healthcare providers must be careful in how they handle preterm labor and delivery.  These cases often require a Cesarean (c-section), which can quickly become complicated depending on the factors leading up to the birth.  Though more research is needed to say for certain, maternal age and related health factors may also increase the risk of complications during birth.

Following a premature birth, the infant most likely will stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a period of time.  The length of stay and treatments required will depend on how premature the infant was born, and what comorbid conditions or other health risks he or she has at birth.  Premature infants often require a feeding tube, breathing assistance, vaccinations, jaundice lights, and constant monitoring of vital signs.

Have Questions about Preterm Birth and Your Rights?

If you have medical-related questions about preterm birth, your best bet is contacting your healthcare provider.  If, however, you have legal-related questions – such as your legal rights as a patient, how to know if negligence contributed to a traumatic birth, or how to file a birth injury lawsuit – your best bet is to contact Brown & Brothers.

At Brown & Brothers, our team of birth injury attorneys is skilled in offering legal guidance that is kind, compassionate, and tailored to your situation.  To learn more about your legal rights, fill out our online form and we will schedule your free case evaluation.

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How Does Summer Weather Impact Cerebral Palsy? https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/05/summer-weather-impact-cerebral-palsy/ Sun, 06 May 2018 17:32:13 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15089 Summer is almost upon us, and that has many people gearing up for school to be out, traveling, and more outdoor adventures.  If you know someone who has cerebral palsy, you may also be wondering if summer weather impacts cerebral …

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Summer is almost upon us, and that has many people gearing up for school to be out, traveling, and more outdoor adventures.  If you know someone who has cerebral palsy, you may also be wondering if summer weather impacts cerebral palsy symptoms.  The answer is “yes!” Changes in weather temperature can have a significant effect on individuals with cerebral palsy, and summer has some impacts that are more significant than other seasons.

Read on to learn more about how summer weather can impact cerebral palsy.  To find out more about living with cerebral palsy, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our birth injury attorneys.

How Does Summer Weather Impact Cerebral Palsy?

Weather can have a significant impact on how our bodies feel.  Our joints and muscles often respond to changes in weather conditions, humidity, barometer, and other factors.  For individuals with cerebral palsy, these weather-related changes can be debilitating.  Involuntary movements can be worsened by humidity and heat, and joint stability and balance can be affected by increases in body temperature.

So, how do you prepare for summertime and work around possible impacts? Consider the following helpful tips from Jessica Grono, an author and educator who happens to have cerebral palsy:

  • Air Conditioning: If the air conditioning is not turned on yet, keep a fan on nearby when sitting, standing, or using the bathroom. Grono says that she struggles with sitting and standing movements if she is too warm as her body spasms.
  • Careful Dressing: Think carefully about your clothing. Wearing loose-fitting clothing can help moderate your body temperature and offer more comfort.  Dark colors absorb heat, so avoid wearing dark clothing, especially if you plan to be outdoors.  It is also advisable to wear a hat and use sunscreen, especially for children.
  • Ice Cold Water: Drink lots of ice water. Drinking ice water can help lower your body’s temperature.  Keep cold water on hand, and if you require the assistance of a wheelchair, invest in a water bottle with a long, flexible straw for easy access.
  • Cold Foods: Eat chilled or frozen foods. If you are overheated, sometimes simply eating a cold snack like fruit or a salad can help you feel cooler.  This is also a great way to enjoy healthy snacks, especially on-the-go.
  • Use a Spray Bottle: If you are moving around a lot, traveling, or are planning to be outdoors, carry a spray bottle of cold water with you. If you feel overheated, you or someone with you can spray just enough cold water on you to cool you down.  Aim for spots like the back of your neck, forehead, and arms.
  • Take a Swim: Swimming is a great resource for someone with cerebral palsy. Not only is it a great way to cool down, but it also is a safe and effective way of getting exercise.  Swimming does not put as much strain on your joints and muscles as other forms of exercise.  Check your local gyms, YMCA, or other organizations to see if there are specialized swimming classes in your area.

Signs and Symptoms to Be Aware Of

Anyone is vulnerable to extreme temperatures and weather conditions, but individuals with conditions like cerebral palsy may be more susceptible due to limitations in movement, motor control, and sometimes speech.  Individuals with cerebral palsy may not be able to adequately monitor and manage their body temperature without assistance.  It is important that anyone with cerebral palsy, or anyone caring for someone with the condition, understands the risks of heat exposure.

Be mindful of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Unresponsive or high fever
  • Abnormal or unusual weakness
  • Difficulty waking up
  • Vomiting
  • Dark urine
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Extensive sweating

Any of these symptoms could indicate heat exposure, which if left untreated, could have a detrimental impact on your health.  If not properly treated, heat exposure can lead to heatstroke, which may cause:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of sweating
  • Red (flushed) skin
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Fever of 104 degrees or higher

If heat exposure symptom progress to this level, it is important to get medical attention right away.

Treating Heat Exposure or Heatstroke

Treatment of heat exposure should begin as soon as discomfort is noted.  In mild cases, treatment may only consist of cooling the body down by moving into the shade or air conditioning, drinking sips of cold water, or taking a cool bath.  Many people also find that wrapping a cool towel around their neck helps to lower their body temperature.  If you are overheated, you should never drink alcohol or drinks containing caffeine.

In more severe cases, heat exposure or heatstroke may require medical attention for proper treatment.  If you have taken steps to cool down body temperature but the fever does not abate, the individual begins to have seizures, or breathing becomes impaired, you should contact 911 immediately.  You may also find it necessary to administer CPR.  Parents or caregivers of individuals with cerebral palsy should be First Aid and CPR certified, and should be aware of any needed modifications based on the condition.

Learn More about Living with Cerebral Palsy

If you or someone you love has cerebral palsy, you want to know as much as possible about enjoying warm weather safely.  To find out more, visit our website, or fill out our online form to ask our attorneys about cerebral palsy.

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What Women Around the World Need to Know about Valproate and Birth Injuries https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/2018/04/what-women-around-the-world-need-to-know-about-valproate-and-birth-injuries/ Sun, 29 Apr 2018 14:31:41 +0000 https://www.birthinjuryguide.org/?p=15038 Studies and legislation in Italy, France, and the United Kingdom have reinforced the dangers of epilepsy drug valproate – a drug already listed as dangerous here in the United States.  Here is what women around the world need to know …

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Studies and legislation in Italy, France, and the United Kingdom have reinforced the dangers of epilepsy drug valproate – a drug already listed as dangerous here in the United States.  Here is what women around the world need to know about valproate and birth injuries.  If you have questions about any medication you are taking and are planning to become pregnant, or are currently pregnant, contact your doctor before making any changes.

What is Valproate?

There are several drugs listed as valproate products, including Depacon (valproate sodium), Depakote (divalproex sodium), and Depakene (valproic acid).  These drugs are approved by the U.S.  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat seizures, migraine headaches, and mixed or manic episodes caused by bipolar of manic-depressive disorder.  There are also a handful of off-label (unapproved) uses recognized by the FDA.

FDA Warnings about Valproate and Birth Injuries

For many years, the FDA has urged women who are pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, to talk to their doctor before taking valproate-related products.  Women already prescribed the medication should not stop taking it, but should contact their doctor as soon as they suspect that they are pregnant.

In 2011, the FDA released a consumer alert based on research that showed children who were born to mothers taking valproate during pregnancy had reduced cognitive scores at the age of three.  Following the FDA alert, research publised in Lancet Neurology suggested that exposure to valproate products while in utero resulted in a decreased IQ compared to children exposed to other antiepileptic medications.

Worldwide Attention to Valproate Dangers

As far back as the 1980’s, Italy and France had released warnings about potential risks associated with taking valproate during pregnancy.  One study found a significant correlation between exposure to valproate and the occurrence of spina bifida.  It was this and other related research that first led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other organizations, to take a critical look at valproate and the risk of birth injuries.

More recently, the UK has taken drastic measures to prevent women and children from being harmed by valproate drugs.  In April 2018, the UK’s drug regulator, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), license changes for valproate, meaning that there are new regulations for doctors prescribing related medications.  The new Pregnancy Prevention Programme requires that:

  • Women prescribed valproate products must meet with her doctor every year to discuss the risks to unborn children.
  • Women must sign an acknowledgement form at least every year, stating that she recognizes the risks of taking the medication.
  • Women must be advised of the importance of contraception while being treated for seizures or other disorders requiring a valproate prescription.

Since the 1970’s, it is estimated that around 20,000 children in the UK have suffered disabilities due to valproate exposure.  That accounts for a risk factor of up to four out of every 10 babies being at risk for developing developmental disorders.  It also accounts for around one out of 10 babies being at risk for suffering birth defects.

Valproate Information for Women

Valproate is FDA approved, which means that it is safe and effective for certain patients and conditions.  However, the FDA and other organizations have clearly identified potential risks of taking valproate-related medications during pregnancy.  So, what should women do about the risks of valproate and birth injuries?

  • Before taking valproate products, talk to your doctor about your health and any plans you have to become pregnant in the future.
  • If you are planning to become pregnant or have recently found out you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about other treatment options. In such situations, the FDA recommends only using valproate if other treatments have not properly controlled the condition.
  • For treatment of migraine headaches, the FDA has listed valproate products as a Category X, meaning that the risks clearly outweigh the benefits and the drug should not be used during pregnancy.
  • Never stop taking valproate products suddenly. Doing so can cause medical problems that are serious or potentially life-threatening.
  • Women of childbearing age who are taking valproate products should also take effective birth control measures until they can discuss alternative treatment options for a healthy pregnancy.
  • If you become pregnant while taking valproate products, talk to your doctor about enrolling in the North American Antiepileptic Drug Pregnancy Registry. This registry collects information about drugs used during pregnancy and any potential side effects.
  • If you have been taking valproate throughout a pregnancy, talk to your child’s pediatrician about your medications. Valproate is known to pass through breast milk, but the effects are unknown.
  • Any side effects you experience while taking valproate should be reported to the FDA MedWatch

It is not currently known whether the risks associated with taking valproate during pregnancy are higher during a specific period of the pregnancy.  It is also unknown whether exposure during a certain period of pregnancy has an impact on the severity of the potential health concerns.  Research and review of valproate and birth injuries caused by the drug are ongoing.

Get Help with Medication Related Birth Injuries

While the FDA releases consumer alerts, it is up to healthcare providers to ensure that women are informed, are prescribed the appropriate medication, and are monitored closely during pregnancy.  If you or your child have suffered adverse side effects, birth injuries, or birth defects caused by medications taken during pregnancy, contact Brown & Brothers to discuss your legal rights.  Fill out our online form for a free case review, and to learn more about valproate and birth injuries.

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