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Labor & Delivery

Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking: Protect Yourself and Your Baby from Cerebral Palsy

After your baby is born, your protective instincts are powerful. As the new "mama bear", you would challenge anyone who threatened to harm your precious new bundle of joy. But did you know that protecting your baby’s health starts before conception? If you smoke, drink alcohol, or use any illicit drug, you are putting your child at risk for potentially permanent and devastating health problems. But like millions of women around the world wonder, "Will an occasional glass of wine hurt my baby?" Studies are not conclusive as to whether or not it is safe to consume alcohol in any amount. It is therefore recommended that you abstain from consuming alcohol until after your baby is born. This ensures your baby is not forced to fight the ill affects of alcohol while she is developing and growing in the womb. Maternal consumption of drugs and/or alcohol poisons your baby and seriously affects her nervous system, blood vessels, and internal organs. These impacts significantly increase your baby’s chances of having a low birth weight and brain damage. If you are already pregnant, it’s not too late to stop exposing yourself and your baby to these potential hazards. The sooner you stop, the better for you and your baby. And if you plan to get pregnant, now is the time to start protecting your unborn child. If You are Unsure About the Impacts of Drugs or Alcohol on Your Baby Seek expert advice immediately. As a parent or expectant mother, you must stay ”during your pregnancy and after your child is born. And it’s never too late to start asking questions. You also need to know that your doctor and medical team has done everything possible to keep you and your child safe. If your doctor has failed you and your baby in any way, you may be entitled to financial help.

Will an Infection While I’m Pregnant Hurt My Baby?

More likely than not, you and your baby will sail through your pregnancy and have a healthy and happy outcome. But if a problem does arise, the risk of infection can pose an immediate medical threat to your child. It is frightening to come down with a fever and know that your baby is at risk of developing a potentially devastating health problem. The good news is that if you come down with an infection, it can probably be treated. And some maternal infections can actually be prevented.

Three Infections Pregnant Women Can Avoid

Rubella (German measles) — If you haven’t had the measles or a shot to prevent it, make sure you get vaccinated before you become pregnant. This easy to avoid virus can cause brain damage and jaundice in your baby. Toxoplasmosis — This parasitic infection comes from:

  • Cat feces. Avoid cleaning the kitty box or wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands if you have to clean the box yourself.
  • Eating raw or undercooked meat during pregnancy that is infected with the parasite. You can’t tell by looking at the meat, so always cook it thoroughly.
  • Unwashed or improperly washed fruits or vegetables that are infected. Again, you cannot tell if they are infected by looking at them. Always wash well, even if it’s organic.

The parasite that causes toxoplasmosis is also found in soil and can therefore be transferred from bugs, insects, and birds. So always wash your hands thoroughly after gardening. An added concern with toxoplasmosis is that you may not even suspect that you have the parasite. And if you do feel any effects, you will probably feel “flu-ish.” This is an easy symptom to ignore when you are pregnant since you may not feel well anyway. Toxoplasmosis is quite common in the American population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 60 million American’s could be infected with the parasite. Fortunately, if you or your doctor suspects you have toxoplasmosis, you can take a medication that is safe for your baby. But do take this infection seriously—the parasite can cause inflammation and brain damage, as well as jaundice, in your baby. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)/Kidney Infection As a woman, chances are that at some point in your life you have or will come down with a urinary tract infection (UTI). The incidence in men is much lower. Why? Simply put, a woman’s physical makeup makes it easy for bacteria to reach the bladder where it can grow and create an infection. (A woman’s urethra is located closer to the rectum than a man’s.) And if you do not fully empty your bladder, bacteria are more likely to grow in the urine that was not emptied out. If you have already experienced a UTI, then you know it’s painful. But what you might not know is that developing a UTI or kidney infection while pregnant is much more serious. In fact, it increases your chances of developing high blood pressure, a condition that can cause you to deliver prematurely.

If You Suspect an Infection While Pregnant

If at some point during your pregnancy you suspect any type of infection, bring it to your doctor’s attention immediately. Be sure that he or she takes your concerns seriously. Some infections are easy to treat, and some can be prevented. But all maternal infections during pregnancy pose long-term health risks to your baby. One of those risks is developing cerebral palsy.

If You Had an Infection While Pregnant But Did Not Receive Due Care and Attention

Seek expert advice. It’s the only way to know if your doctor and medical team did everything possible to keep you and your baby safe and healthy. If your doctor failed you and your baby in any way, you may be entitled to financial help.

Significant Delivery Issues

The cause of most cerebral palsy is present before birth, the period of labor and delivery is still risky. Over due pregnancies, overly large babies, prolonged labor and breech deliveries increase the risk of injury occurring during birth. A pregnancy which runs beyond the normal gestational period of 40 weeks is a risk for a difficult delivery because the baby can be larger than normal. Women with pregestational diabetes are also more likely to have larger than normal babies. Larger than average babies have difficulty passing through the birth canal. Sometimes the baby’s head may present or partially present, but then the shoulder is caught under the mother’s pelvic bones (a problem called shoulder dystocia). Being in this position puts the baby at risk for possible prolonged oxygen deprivation, since it may take doctors a long time to extract the child and the umbilical cord may be kinked or squeezed during manipulations to free the shoulder. Simple procedures like changing the mother’s position and changing the doctor’s grasp on the baby will be tried at first. Sometimes something as simple as pushing the woman’s legs up against her chest can provide extra room for the baby to descend; if this fails, those assisting the birth may help the woman roll over on her hands and knees so that gravity and the change of position will allow the baby to descend. Sometimes special episiotomy incisions are needed to make more room for the child. The longer a situation like this continues, the greater the risk for both the woman and the child. The woman may bleed excessively or experience tissue damage which will be slow to heal. Nerves in the baby’s shoulder may be stretched or torn causing a condition known as Erb’s palsy. In extreme situations, where no simpler, less invasive method has worked, the doctors may need to perform a caesarian section to remove a baby who has become stuck in this position; however, a caesarian section at this point is tricky and risky, since the baby may need to be pushed back up the birth canal and then quickly extracted through an incision in the mother’s lower abdomen. Doctors do not like to perform such risky procedures; all possible other procedures will be tried before attempting this form of emergency C-section. During such an emergency C-section, the woman is at greater risk for hemorrhaging and the baby is at risk for oxygen deprivation.

Medical Negligence

Even with ultrasound and other modern technology, an unborn baby’s weight is difficult to assess. Doctors may not anticipate delivering an overly large baby. Being unable to predict every possible complication is not medical negligence; however, being unprepared to deal with all possible emergencies may be negligence. Delays in implementing appropriate emergency delivery techniques could lead to the baby being deprived of oxygen long enough to cause brain damage which will lead to cerebral palsy. The doctor should make sure that a special medical team, capable of handling emergency deliveries is available, even when trouble is not anticipated. The delivery room should be always be equipped for all possible emergencies. The doctor should be willing to admit when a delivery is becoming too complex for his or her skills and turn over the patient’s care to the emergency delivery team. The physician should also explain in advance to the patient and her family, what will happen in the case of an emergency delivery, even in cases where such an emergency is not anticipated. In cases where an emergency is anticipated, the doctor should be even more thorough with the explanation. In addition, a neonatal intensive care team should be on stand-by to care for the baby should an emergency occur. Proper treatment in the first few minutes after birth can sometimes prevent future problems. Naturally, proper treatment in the first few days after birth is also very important.

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