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Birth injuries: understanding Erb’s palsy

As a mom-to-be in Delaware, the health, welfare and safety of your developing baby likely is foremost in your mind. That is why you do everything you can to ensure your own health and safety during your pregnancy. Unfortunately, however, you cannot control every aspect of your baby’s delivery and birth.

Birth injuries can occur due to complications or medical negligence during your baby’s birthing process. Erb’s palsy, while reasonably rare, is one of the potentially catastrophic birth injuries your baby could receive.

Erb’s palsy causes

Your baby’s brachial plexus nerves originate in his or her spinal cord. From there they radiate out to his or her armpits and down to his or her shoulders and arms. Should these nerves get stretched or otherwise damaged during your baby’s birthing process, the result could be Erb’s palsy, a weakness, reduced feeling or even paralysis of his or her arms.

As terrifying as this sounds, you should be aware that Erb’s palsy is a somewhat strange birth injury. Many babies eventually “outgrow” the effects of it. For those who do not, however, surgical intervention is the only way to prevent or minimize its lasting effects.

Risk factors

The risk of your baby suffering from Erb’s palsy increases under any of the following conditions:

  • (S)he is an unusually large baby
  • You are an unusually small woman
  • The doctor must deliver him or her with the aid of mid- or low-level forceps
  • The doctor must deliver him or her with the aid of vacuum extraction
  • (S)he delivers during your stage two labor
  • One or more of your older children was or is an Erb’s palsy victim

Initial treatment

Should your baby suffer from Erb’s palsy, you naturally will want his or her doctors to do anything and everything possible to correct the condition. Do not be surprised, however, if they recommend a wait-and-see approach. While this undoubtedly will be frightening and frustrating for you, remember that many babies do in fact “outgrow” Erb’s palsy during their first year of life. Consequently, most medical professionals recommend giving Mother Nature the chance to spontaneously heal your baby. Meanwhile, the doctors also likely will recommend that your baby undergo a course of physical therapy. Should this prove inadequate by the time (s)he reaches his or her first birthday, then the doctors probably will recommend one or more surgeries.

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