Cerebral Palsy In Babies: Symptoms And Alternative Therapies

Cerebral palsy is group of permanent non-progressive disorders that affects the posture and body movement. Cerebral palsy is caused as a result of injury to brain during birth or problems during development of brain in the womb. The condition is characterized by weakness, paralysis, in-coordination of muscular movement.

The condition occurs since infancy or within 1 or 2 years after birth. Along with difficulty with movements, the child may also manifest other symptoms such as lack of intelligence, seizures, hearing and visual disability.

Person with cerebral palsy may have difficulty in swallowing, rapid movement of eyes, imbalance while walking, and muscle stiffness.

The symptoms greatly vary from one person to another. Cerebral palsy is a permanent disorder; hence the main aim is to bring improvement in the motor skills of child so that he is able to live independent life.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy In Babies?

Cerebral palsy is caused due to injury to the brain. It may occur due to abnormality during the developmental stage in mother’s womb or during the time of labor or within 1 or 2 years after birth. In many cases the cause remains obscure. In some cases brain injury occurs when the baby is still in the uterus.

Injury can occur due to mother suffering from infections such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasmosis infection when the child is still in the womb. The developing brain may get injured if the mother is hurt due to accident when the child is still in womb.

Problems can also develop if pregnant woman has diabetes, and high blood pressure. Injury to brain during the time of labor or lack of oxygen during birth can cause cerebral palsy. Problem after birth may occur if the child is prematurely born, or suffers from brain infection such as meningitis and encephalitis in first or second year of life.

Signs And Symptoms Of Cerebral Palsy

The signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy are not obvious in first few months after birth, but they become more pronounced and clear as the nervous system starts maturing. Some of the signs that may be noticed after birth are:

  • Infant experiences difficulty to latch on nipple and suck.
  • He may also find difficulty in swallowing.
  • Unusual posture of the baby. He may be stiff or floppy.
  • He may have seizures.

As the baby grows, the symptoms of delayed milestones may be seen. This may include inability to control head or sitting without support or roll over, crawl and walk.

The muscle tone becomes abnormal. Muscles are extremely stiff or become relaxed and floppy. The limbs of a person lie in awkward position. Stiffness prevents easy movement of limbs. This may lead to abnormal walking. In some instances the person is not able to walk.

The child may be extremely sensitive to touch. Even slight touch may cause pain. The child may not allow brushing because of pain. This will lead to dental carries and gum problems as the child grows. Involvement of facial muscles leads to drooling.

Beside physical problems, half of the children with cerebral palsy have learning difficulty and mental retardation. Person with mild form of cerebral palsy may learn to read and write at slower pace, but child with severe mental retardation is unable to write and read.

Accidents and falls are common problem due to joint stiffness, lack of muscle coordination, etc. Injuries may also occur due to seizures.

Alternative Therapies For Cerebral Palsy

The child suffering from cerebral palsy needs care and treatment so that he can try to live his life without dependence. However, the task is not simple and requires involvement of family members, teacher, physician, physiotherapist etc. He may need therapy that will help to improve his motor skills such as walking, talking, and use of hands. From time to time he may need physical therapy where he is made to learn ways to balance his body, walk, hold objects in his hands, play, run etc.

As speech is also affected, speech therapists will teach the child the communication skills. Occupational therapist teaches the child to use his hands, and upper body so that he can write, draw, or use a wheelchair on his own.

The outlook and prognosis of the child may depend on the extent of damage. A child with mild cerebral palsy may be able to perform few daily tasks. But child with severe cerebral palsy may not be able to be self sufficient or compete effectively with peers.