Some expectant parents may have a specific desire for their unborn child: Perhaps they are hoping for a girl. Or maybe a boy this time. Wouldn’t it be great if he or she had dad’s blue eyes — or mom’s musical ability? Some parents may have none of those notions at all. But there is one dream all parents have in common: they want their child to be healthy.
While the majority of babies are born healthy, sadly some are not, even with the best prenatal care. The most common motor disability of childhood, cerebral palsy (CP), affects about 1 in 3451 children, with nearly 8,0002 babies and 1,5003 preschool-aged children diagnosed every year.
When a parent is first faced with their child’s diagnosis, there is likely a flood of questions: What is cerebral palsy? What are the causes and symptoms of CP? Are there different types of cerebral palsy? And how do you treat it? Is home health care something to be considered?
What precisely is cerebral palsy?
First, to be clear, cerebral palsy is not a disease. CP is a group of disorders that affect a person’s (usually a newborn, infant, or very young child) ability to move and maintain balance and posture.
Cerebral means having to do with the brain; palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles.
CP is the result of damage to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth, but can also occur during and even afterwards. Cerebral palsy relating to brain damage that happened before or during birth is called congenital CP. This accounts for 85% to 90% of all CP cases4.
There are four different types of CP:
- Spastic CP. This is the most common type and is characterized by stiffness and difficulty of movement.
- Athetoid/Dyskinetic CP. Characterized by uncontrolled, involuntary movements.
- Ataxic CP. Characterized by a loss of depth perception and balance.
- Mixed CP. This involves more than one of these types
Depending on the type and severity, cerebral palsy may include developmental and learning disabilities, as well as mobility issues. Eating can also be difficult, and care must be taken to ensure a child’s proper nutrition to keep bones strong.
What are the causes and symptoms of cerebral palsy?
The cause of any specific incidence of CP isn’t always known. Premature and other low-birthweight babies are at higher risk for the disorder than full-term and normal-weight babies. Since most damage happens before or shortly after birth, common causes in newborns include:
- Infections during pregnancy
- Stroke — either in the womb or after birth
- Untreated jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Genetic disorders
- Medical problems in the mom during pregnancy
Early brain damage can also lead to CP. For example, a baby’s or a toddler’s brain might be damaged by lead poisoning, bacterial meningitis, being shaken, or having been involved in a car accident.
For babies born at risk for cerebral palsy, doctors and parents should watch for early signs such as:
- Developmental delays
- Uncoordinated movements
- Problems crawling
- Hand preference
- Abnormal muscle tone
- Increased reflexes
Is cerebral palsy treatable?
While there is no known cure, early diagnosis, treatment, and therapeutic interventions can help children with CP grow and develop to their greatest potential. It is a lifelong condition, but the good news is that it’s not degenerative and will not worsen over time. Many children grow up and lead productive and independent lives, living well into adulthood with the help of professional and family caregivers.
Children are often cared for by an entire team of medical specialists, This may include doctors and surgeons, nurses, therapists, psychologists, educators, social workers, and home health care professionals. It is, however, still important to have a primary care doctor or a CP specialist to care of your child’s routine health needs as well as to coordinate care with other doctors.
Since CP can range from mild to severe, your child may only require minimal support—such as help with personal care and strengthening exercises—or, in contrast, assistance with more complex needs such as enteral feedings (nutrition delivered via a feeding tube), breathing support through a tracheostomy and ventilator (breathing tube in their neck), and seizure management. While many children with CP require the use of assistive devices such as a wheelchair or walker, not all do.
The comfort of home health care
Since CP is a condition that affects muscles and movement, it is intrinsically uncomfortable. That’s why care in the comfort of a child’s own home can achieve such positive results.
‘BAYADA Pediatrics Nurses undergo the most rigorous clinical training including simulation laboratory instruction and practice—the same type of hands-on training you’d find at top hospitals, said BAYADA Area Director Skilled Clinical Operations Kathy Pfeiffer.”
BAYADA Pediatrics Nurses deliver a range of personalized care—from help with simple exercises to skilled, complex care—to meet the unique needs of every child. Form their first day in your home, your BAYADA health care professionals are ready and able to help your baby grow into as rich and rewarding a life as possible.
JoAnne Stratton shares how home care nurses helped her son to thrive with cerebral palsy here.
Take charge of your child’s CP today
Learning how to help your child and your family live with cerebral palsy will be the best way to help your child reach their greatest potential. BAYADA Pediatrics can help you and your family every step of the way. To learn more, visit www.bayada.com/pediatrics.
1 CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network
2, 3 Cerebral Palsy Group
4 National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
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