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Understanding Erb’s palsy

As an expectant Delaware mother, you likely have your developing baby’s health, safety and welfare as the top things in your mind. While you do everything possible to make sure your pregnancy is a healthy one, however, you cannot control every facet of your baby’s gestation and birth.

Unfortunately, birth injuries remain a continuing problem in the United States, even though they affect only a relatively small percentage of infants. Nevertheless, if your baby suffers one, it can have a lasting impact on his or her life. One such birth injury is Erb’s palsy.

Erb’s palsy definition and causes

Erb’s palsy is a condition affecting the nerves that extend from your baby’s spinal cord to his or her armpits, and from there to his or her arms. If there is stretching to these brachial plexus nerves or other damage during your baby’s birthing process, it could result in weakness, reduced feeling or other problems in the arms. In extreme cases, the arms could become paralyzed.

While the consequences of Erb’s palsy could be catastrophic for your baby, (s)he likewise could “outgrow” its symptoms without any medical intervention whatsoever. If not, however, (s)he likely will face multiple surgeries to correct, minimize or prevent lifelong arm problems.

Risk factors

Unfortunately, any baby can receive an Erb’s palsy birth injury. However, the risk of your baby receiving one increases under any of the following conditions:

  • His or her birth size and weight are large
  • Your size is small
  • The doctor uses mid- or low-level forceps during the delivery
  • The doctor uses vacuum extraction during the delivery
  • (S)he delivers during your second labor stage
  • You have older children who suffered or suffer from Erb’s palsy

Early treatment

If your baby suffers from Erb’s palsy at birth, the pediatricians likely will recommend a wait-and-see approach rather than immediate medical intervention. Given that some babies recover from Erb’s palsy on their own, doctors hesitate to surgically intervene too early. Instead, they likely will recommend physical therapy during your baby’s first year of life. If (s)he does not fully recover by then, however, they likely will recommend the first of what could be many surgeries.

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