Newborns are sometimes injured during birth, but those injuries shouldn’t ever be excuses as just being normal results of the birthing process. This is especially true when the injury is something that can affect the baby long after birth. One birth injury that a pregnant woman and her partner should be aware of is brachial plexus. While this isn’t normally a fatal birth injury, in extreme cases, it can cause paralysis and other long-term effects.
Brachial plexus occurs when the nerves near the baby’s shoulder are damaged during birth. This can happen if the baby is breech, has an abnormal presentation or is pulled during delivery.
In the case of a breech baby, brachial plexus may occur if the baby has one or both arms raised during the birth. This can put abnormal pressure on the baby’s shoulder, which can lead to brachial plexus.
If a baby goes through the birth canal in a manner that involves the head or neck pulling toward the side during the delivery of the shoulders, brachial plexus may occur. Shoulder dystocia is one cause that might lead to this type of issue.
In a vertex, or head-first, delivery, there is a chance that the baby’s shoulders may be pulled during delivery. This is either because of the manner in which the baby is delivered or because of external help, such as forceps, being used to aid delivery of the baby. If the baby’s shoulders are pulled, pressure on the nerves can cause brachial plexus.
Brachial plexus usually affects only one arm and usually the upper arm. If the birth injury affects the upper and lower arm, the condition is termed Erb’s paralysis. If only the hand is affected, it is called Klumpke paralysis. In all three types of brachial plexus, the baby will be unable to move one hand or arm, have significant weakness in the affected arm or hold the affected arm bent against the body. In some cases, the Moro reflex is absent on the affected side.
In most cases, brachial plexus will resolved without significant medical treatment in three to six months. Light physical therapy and other treatments like massage might be suggested.
Parents in Pennsylvania who has a baby that has brachial plexus might want to explore seeking compensation. While compensation won’t make their baby’s recovery easier, it might help the family to cover medical costs associated with the injury.
Source: National Institutes of Health MedlinePlus, “Brachial plexus injury in newborns” Sep. 17, 2014