Erb’s Palsy, also known as Brachial Plexus Palsy, is a birth injury that occurs as a result of nerve damage around the shoulder area. Often times, it can be preventable and is a result of medical malpractice during a difficult birth. Here are four common causes of Erb’s Palsy.
When the infant is too proportionately large for the birth canal, it can be difficult to get them out. Typically, this problem can be seen and diagnosed weeks before the delivery date. Most doctors will opt for a Caesarian Section (C-section) rather than a vaginal birth when this problem becomes apparent. As the child pushes through the birth canal, their large size can cause them to have to squeeze through, pushing the head and shoulder in the opposite direction and damaging those nerves.
Sometimes, during a standard head-first delivery, an infant’s head can get stuck. The head then begins to pull away from the shoulders which can also lead to another birth injury known as Shoulder Dystocia. When this occurs, doctors have to use some force to help pull the baby out. This force can cause an unnatural pull on the baby’s head and shoulders, potentially leading to Erb’s Palsy.
This type of delivery is when the baby has to be delivered feet first. When doctors realize that the baby is in a breech position, most will choose to do a C-Section to reduce the risk of injury and complication. The baby could get stuck in the birth canal and their brain could even be compressed during this type of delivery, leading to brain injuries. With a breech delivery, the baby’s arms naturally go over their head which causes stress on the brachial plexus nerves.
Forceful Arm Pulling
Though less common, if the doctor pulls on the baby’s arm for any reason, it can lead to Erb’s Palsy. This typically would occur after the baby has already been delivered, meaning that the injuries were caused by the doctor’s mishandling the baby. This can be done by something like picking up the baby by their arm.
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