5 Steps to Take After a Perinatal Stroke in Philadelphia

birth injury in Philadelphia and feet of baby in the arms of mother

Understanding Life After a Perinatal Stroke Diagnosis in Philadelphia

When parents receive the unexpected and life-changing news that their newborn infant has suffered a perinatal stroke, it understandably triggers a wide range of intense emotions – grief, anxiety, anger, shock. However, with compassionate medical and community support, research-backed information on what to anticipate, and access to experienced neonatal birth injury lawyers if negligence is suspected, families can gradually transition from feelings of despair to empowerment in caring for their child’s needs.

This in-depth guide aims to help Philadelphia families impacted by neonatal stroke better comprehend critical aspects of the condition itself and make this devastating event more manageable. 

Raynes & Lawn Trial Lawyers has decades of experience guiding clients through birth injury cases. Our talented and dedicated attorneys can give you personalized and strategic attention. Call our offices today at 1-800-535-1797 for your free consultation. 

Defining Perinatal Stroke in Infants

A perinatal stroke refers to a stroke occurring in a baby from about 20 weeks gestation up until a month after birth. It affects approximately one in 3,500 births. The blockage or rupture of blood vessels in the brain that a stroke causes can damage delicate nerve cells during their critical development stages. This disruption then leads to long-term conditions like cerebral palsy, chronic seizures, or lifelong intellectual and physical disability.

While daunting, understanding some basics around what causes infant strokes, risk factors involved, and common presenting symptoms can help families better grasp the diagnosis itself.

What Causes Perinatal Strokes?

Strokes at this young age are often caused either by blood clots blocking the flow of oxygen/nutrients to brain tissue or blood vessel ruptures, leading to intracranial bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke). When bleeding occurs, blood accumulates and begins to destroy developing brain cells. 

Common causes include abnormal vascular development, congenital heart defects disrupting blood circulation, or clotting factor deficiencies in the baby’s blood. Suffocation during birth can also temporarily halt oxygen, playing a role in some instances.

Key Risk Factors

Though not always avoidable, certain complications put babies at elevated stroke risk:

  • Maternal health conditions like chronic high blood pressure, clotting disorders, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia 

  • Placental problems such as blood vessel abnormalities, blood clots traveling from the placenta to the baby

  • Pregnancy/delivery difficulties – emergency C-sections, prolonged labor, breach positioning, reducing oxygen levels

  • Inherited newborn conditions affecting blood vessels and blood’s ability to clot 

What are Common Symptoms or Signs?

  • Seizures

  • Weakness or stiffness on one side of the body  

  • Decreased alertness/consciousness  

  • Extreme sleepiness/lethargy

  • Difficulty breathing or feeding

  • Persistent vomiting

  • Abnormal reflexes or muscle tone

In many cases, though, only subtle neurological abnormalities detected on scans clue doctors into potential perinatal strokes. Vigilance around risk factors is critical.

How is Perinatal Stroke Diagnosed?

Doctors use a mix of techniques to diagnose stroke and pinpoint areas of injury:

  • Physical Neurological Exam – Signs like abnormal reflexes, stiffening limbs, and low muscle tone help doctors recognize nerve damage.

  • Head Ultrasound – This imaging looks at brain tissue/vessels, allowing stroke detection within days of birth.

  • MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging offers detailed brain images, highlighting damaged areas. It is painless and non-invasive. 

  • Blood/Heart Tests – Identifying any irregular heart rhythms, blood clotting disorders, vessel defects, and such can clarify causes.

Early birth injury diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential to limiting future disability and supporting the best possible recoveries. Now, let’s explore the recommended next steps…

Crucial First Actions After Your Baby’s Stroke Diagnosis

Speak with the Hospital Medical Team

Immediately consulting the experienced neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) team helps determine the exact condition details – staging severity, mapping the precise brain injury areas, and pinpointing root causes like clots/bleeding. Based on this assessment, they will outline available treatment options and craft a tailored care plan covering:

  • Stroke-specific medication dosing 

  • Surgical interventions if swelling occurs

  • Physical/occupational therapy regimens

  • Feeding evaluations checking abilities to swallow

  • Seizure management protocols

  • Frequency of follow-up neurological testing

Don’t hesitate to ask any medical questions. Keeping lines of communication open ensures the most effective support. 

Connect with Community Resources 

Our second piece of advice is to reach out early to local community resources that can provide further assistance in navigating this complexity. Taking this step now helps avoid stretches of feeling isolated or overwhelmed down the road. Specifically connect with:  

  • Local Non-Profit Organizations – Exceptional groups like the Pediatric Stroke Network here in Philadelphia offer family workshops, one-on-one guidance, access to the latest clinical trials/research, and more. Speaking with others facing similar journeys can prove invaluable. 

  • State/Government Programs – Every state has an Early Intervention program providing free developmental resources for infants displaying needs. The sooner they enrolled, the better the outcomes, as studies show in the first months/years of life, babies’ brains remain uniquely adaptable thanks to neuroplasticity. 

  • Online Support Communities – For times when speaking with those experiencing the same trauma offers comfort, forums connect parents and doctors globally. 

Ask a Social Worker About Assistance Options

Hospital social workers help families in medical crises access financial aid, insurance/legal advice, childcare relief, food assistance, disability benefits, and local specialized services. Do not wait to inquire about what support options exist – this can alleviate added stress and expenses given the intense care often needed post-stroke. 

Share the Diagnosis with Family and Friends 

Let close relatives and friends know of the diagnosis so your network can offer emotional backing. Their small acts of kindness, like providing meals, fundraising, donating gift cards, or just listening, go a long way during exhaustive NICU stays and beyond. 

Process Your Emotions

Allow yourself time and space to fully process the wave of emotions grief, anger, despair, guilt, and fear – often accompanying a terrifying diagnosis. Each feeling deserves acknowledgment. Counseling, support groups, and close confidants help work through inner turmoil to gain perspective and strength. You cannot pour from an empty cup – self-care enables caring for the little one.

While undoubtedly overwhelming, you need not navigate this unexpected turn alone. Providers, community resources, and loved ones’ collective care empower families to manage ongoing needs.

Accessing Medical Care and Therapy Services  

Caring for an infant recovering from a stroke requires customized therapies and accessibility accommodations tailored to your child’s symptoms and challenges. Assessing options thoroughly alongside your treatment team ensures finding the best-fit solutions.

Here is an overview of the medical care and rehabilitation services typically utilized. Always discuss specifics of care plan decisions with the doctors, given individual needs vary.

Ongoing Medical Care Needs

  • Developmental Monitoring – Expect regular neurological exams tracking motor control, cognition, and learning capacities, plus lab work and imaging assessing affected systems. Monitoring establishes required interventions.

  • Medication Management – Drugs are treating chronic issues like unrelenting seizures and dangerously high stroke risk, requiring blood thinners to mitigate clots. Working closely with neurologists determines safe, practical plans.  

  • Emergency Preparedness – Having response protocols for medical crises like status epilepticus seizures or aspiration pneumonia from swallowing difficulties proves vital later on.

Therapeutic Services Securing Skills  

  • Physical/Occupational Therapy – Crucial for maximizing physical abilities and movement, expanding strength/coordination, and teaching adaptive techniques for disabilities.

  • Speech Therapy – Essential for building communication abilities from limited head/mouth control hindering speech to trouble processing language concepts when cognitive delays exist. Expanding skills here pays dividends.  

  • Developmental Intervention Programs – Pennsylvania offers free early intervention addressing developmental delays and optimizing life trajectories from birth to age three. Customizing stimulation encourages neural recovery. 

Discuss integrating complementary therapies like hydrotherapy or pet therapy for creative enrichment. Every positive experience aids your baby in reaching their potential.

Support Accessibility Needs  

Customizing aspects of home/daily living activities maximizes independence and abilities in the long term:  

  • Mobility Accommodations – Install wheelchair ramps/lifts, transfer stations, custom beds allowing shift changes, and posture-supportive chairs. 

  • Communication Assistance Tech – Tablets/iPads provide alternate communication abilities, such as visual schedule boards, when speech is hindered.

  • Sensory Aids – Noise-canceling headphones aiding overstimulation regulation, tactile toys for sensory integration issues.

Do not hesitate to approach medical providers, social services agencies, or legal advocates about accessibility requirements. All families deserve properly assisted care.

Exploring Next Steps If Negligence is Suspected


While not every perinatal stroke warrants investigation around medical error, some families do elect to explore negligence questions, whether to understand better what happened, hold providers accountable, or seek potential compensation if taking legal action. 


If you have concerns about oversight errors, crucial next steps typically involve:

Consult an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney

Initially, connecting with a birth injury lawyer is essential in birth injury litigation. They objectively examine all circumstances surrounding the event – from prenatal care, labor/delivery proceedings, and postpartum testing limitations – assessing where standard protocols may have broken down.  


Experienced attorneys also clarify medical negligence claims parameters, layout filing time limits, navigate early settlement offers from hospital legal teams, and determine realistic compensation. They serve as liaisons across all involved.

Gather Necessary Medical Records

A Philadelphia birth injury attorney then formally requests relevant medical files related to prenatal, maternal, and neonatal care from the hospital, labs, obstetrics facilities, etc.  Compiling a chronological account of health factors allows for properly weighing clinical decision-making.


Acquire Third Party Medical Opinions  

Your infant stroke attorney retains trusted independent experts – skilled obstetricians and neuroradiologists – to scrutinize all care aspects. Their assessed failures to adhere to reasonable medical standards strengthen claims of negligence and preventability. 

File the Initial Complaint  


Within prescribed time limits, the lawyer formally files a civil complaint with your state court, officially alleging medical negligence by named clinicians and hospital systems involved in perinatal care.  

Engage in the Pretrial Discovery Phase

Here, your lawyer facilitates information exchanges between legal teams, gathers witness testimonies, and calculates long-term care costs and lost future income projections to continually develop a position of family-centered support and optimal compensation.

Reach Case Settlement or Move to Trial

The last stages involve resolving the dispute via an acceptable settlement offer or proceeding to trial before a medical malpractice jury determines if negligence transpired and any amounts owed. Experienced lawyers skillfully guide families through this landscape.  

Why Take Legal Action

  • Compensation – Financial settlements help cover years of medical bills, equipment costs, and loss of future earnings caring for a child full-time. 

  • Accountability – Negligent systems/providers face the consequences and are encouraged to improve policies/practices to prevent recurrences.

  • Closure – Understanding precisely what happened brings certain families solace and empowerment.

While some variability exists from state to state, reputable medical malpractice lawyers in Pennsylvania like  Raynes & Lawn Trial Lawyers serve as fierce advocates for precisely these kinds of birth injury cases. Reach out for guidance pursuing this course. 

Frequently Asked Questions Around Perinatal Stroke

In closing, here is an overview responding to some frequently expressed concerns and questions by affected families:

  1. How Preventable Are Most Perinatal Strokes?

Some instances cannot be avoided due to their sudden, unpredictable nature. However, careful management of maternal prenatal conditions like hypertension/diabetes and preventative protocols during complex labors/deliveries can mitigate certain risks.

  1. Will This Impact Future Pregnancies? 

Discuss thoroughly with high-risk obstetric specialists. Specific inherited blood disorders/vessel issues do raise recurrence odds. But many moms face no elevated dangers in having future children.

  1. What Is The Long-Term Outlook For Infants After Strokes? 

Outcomes genuinely run the gamut from barely noticeable symptoms to lifelong disability—location, size, and early interventions all shape trajectories. However, ongoing therapy/enrichment can still dramatically improve functioning. 

  1. Does The Child Qualify For Disability Benefits? 

If significant delays across two or more areas exist in development assessments, they will qualify for Social Security benefits, Medicaid coverage, and other assistance.

  1. What Are The Common Causes Of Perinatal Strokes?

Perinatal strokes can be caused by a variety of factors, including blood clotting disorders, infections, placental disorders, and issues with the umbilical cord. In some cases, medical negligence during delivery can also lead to a stroke.

Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer in Philadelphia 

Don’t hesitate to contact our talented and knowledgeable birth injury lawyers at Raynes & Lawn Trial Lawyers to protect your rights and your child’s future. Justice may be a long process, but the outcome and results our attorneys achieve can make a tremendous difference for your family. Call us today at 1(800) 535-1797 for more information.