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How did my baby get Erb's palsy?

Most babies survive pregnancy and the birthing process injury-free. However, in rare cases a baby will develop a problem -- either during pregnancy or birth -- that results in a lifelong disability. One such birth injury is known as Erb's palsy.

Also known as brachial palsy, this birth injury happens in approximately one out of 1,000 births. The injury relates to damage to the brachial plexus -- a conglomeration of nerves that travels through the head, neck and shoulders to connect the baby's arms and hands to his or her brain.

How does Erb's palsy happen?

The brachial plexus damage associated with Erb's palsy happens as a result of too much pressure on the head, shoulders or neck during the delivery process. A stretching or tearing occurs that results in nerves tearing or rupturing.

Babies who have developed Erb's palsy will have limp fingers or hands, or limited movement of the hands and fingers. In some cases, the baby will not be able to move the entire arm.

Erb's palsy injuries may be the result of doctors' errors

The physician's primary responsibility while delivering a baby is to avoid birth injuries and other complications such as Erb's palsy. When Erb's palsy presents itself, it could be the sign that the physician or obstetrician made an error in judgment or was negligent during childbirth. Here are three ways a physician can make a mistake in this regard:

  • The physician failed to notice the threat of "shoulder dystocia." Shoulder dystocia happens when the baby's shoulder becomes trapped in the birth canal.
  • The physicians failed to recognize the need for a Cesarean section in time to prevent Erb's palsy.
  • The medical staff or doctor used too much pressure on the head, shoulders or neck of the baby while trying to force a difficult delivery.

Appropriate treatment and therapy can help a baby suffering from Erb's palsy to improve his or her condition. However, in some cases of extreme tearing the position is permanent. Either way, parents will want to adhere to their doctor's recommendations carefully.

Does your baby have Erb's palsy?

Parents of babies with Erb's palsy may want to investigate the circumstances surrounding their infants' births. They may also want to determine whether their baby's condition was the result of physician's errors during delivery or not.

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