Watching your baby’s development is one of the most thrilling experiences for new parents – but sometimes you may be worried about a baby’s behaviour or the fact they may seem to be slower than your friends’ babies.
Babies tend to develop at their own sweet pace – and the slow starter may often turn out to be the go getter in later years. However, there are certain stages of a babies’ development when motor functions and their ability to sit or hold themselves upright should kick in naturally.
Cerebral palsy is caused by a brain injury either during gestation, at delivery or as a result of an adverse event after birth – such as medical negligence during surgery or day-to-day care which results in brain injury. Cerebral palsy is characterised by abnormal muscle movements in limbs and even the face.
There are three main types of cerebral palsy:
In newborns, the early stages of development usually occur at around three months, six months, nine months and one year, by which time baby should be able to sit up happily by themselves and begin to walk.
Just because your baby is little slower at sitting up (around 6 months) or beginning to stand by themselves and take a few steps (9-12 months), it does not necessarily mean that there is something wrong.
Some health experts believe that girls may be quicker in early stage development – and that with twins, one twin may develop faster than the other, who might well be sitting contentedly watching their twin crawl all over the place without showing any interest in joining in for a while.
However, with cerebral palsy certain basic functions such as being able to support the weight of their own head and reflex actions may be absent – and premature births and multiple births, or births where the parents are under the age of 20, may have a higher risk for cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is caused by signals from the brain to the spinal column not being transmitted properly as a result of brain injury either during pregnancy, at birth, or after birth. Sometimes the causes of cerebral palsy may be genetic, although this is rare.
Premature and low birth weight babies may have a higher risk for cerebral palsy, as in the last weeks of gestation the brain continues developing grey matter, which retains information, memories and skills.
If a brain injury has occurred in a newborn, depending on which part of the brain has been injured, symptoms to watch out for include:
If a baby is suspected of having the symptoms of cerebral palsy, doctors will carry out tests to reflexes, motor skills development, hearing and eyesight – and then a series of scans (eg MRI and CT) will help confirm whether brain injury has occurred.
Currently there is no test for cerebral palsy during pregnancy – although the Apgar score test for newborns can indicate whether there is any concern after delivery. The Apgar scale is used at one minute and five minutes following delivery – and again at 10 minutes after delivery if there is any cause for concern.
More information about the Apgar scale for newborns is available at the Baby Centre.