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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Birth Paralysis – Diagnosis

When a baby is born paralyzed, it can be difficult to determine the cause. In some instances, it may not even be readily apparent, especially if the case is mild. In other situations, such as paralysis of a limb, it becomes quickly obvious as the limb hangs limp. Doctors will use many kinds of tests to diagnose paralysis in an infant.

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Visual Clues

Since you can’t ask a baby if they have feeling in a specific area, you have to use visual clues to alert you to a problem. For example, with Klumpke’s palsy, the arm may be turned inward. There may also be no reflexes or movement in the wrist.

Elk & Elk

A baby may be able to make some movement on the affected side, but it may be less than what is considered normal or what they can do on the opposite side. You may also notice that an arm or leg hangs limp. For facial paralysis, the one side will often droop even as the other side moves normally.


A doctor will often begin with an x-ray and MRI or CAT scan to look for damage to some area of the body. If the baby was injured, such as with severed spinal cord or damaged nerves, digital imaging tests will usually show details of the damage.

If the cause of the paralysis is from infection or other medical conditions, blood tests or other tests may be necessary. In many situations where the cause is an injury, the doctor will recognize paralysis and use testing to confirm the diagnosis. When the cause is a medical condition, many tests may be necessary to rule out specific causes until it becomes obvious what condition the baby has.

While new parents are anxious to know what cause lies behind their precious newborn’s paralysis, it can take some time to determine the reason. It’s important to choose a doctor who is experienced in birth paralysis, who can begin treatment even before the cause is decided.