After our last blog post, our Worcester readers have a better sense of how a timely c-section can reduce the risk of a birth injury in some situations. But when a birth injury does occur, just what should parents expect? This week we'll take a look at what the National Institutes of Health has to say about brachial plexus injuries, or Erb's palsy, one common type of birth injury.
Erb's palsy occurs when a baby suffers injury to the nerves in the shoulder area during delivery. It can occur on its own in situations where the pressure of the baby's shoulders moving into the birth canal exerts a sideways pull on the head and neck. It can also occur when a baby is in the breech (feet-first) position and is delivered without a c-section, as the pressure builds on the shoulders. A delivery room doctor may even cause the injury him or herself by pulling on the shoulder during birth.
How can you tell if your infant has suffered this type of injury? The main evidence will be the baby not moving the arm or hand on one side; the arm may even hang completely loose. An x-ray may be called for to discern whether any bones in the area are broken.
Fortunately, many babies who do display symptoms of Erb's palsy will recover within a matter of months with massage and special exercises. But others may deal with long-term, sometimes permanent effects up to and including the total loss of function in that hand or arm. There are some surgical procedures that may be able to mitigate the effects but no clear treatment or cure.
When a condition like this occurs as a result of a doctor's error during delivery or failure to perform a timely c-section, parents do have legal rights and options they can pursue. Doctors and hospitals can be held accountable for their negligence resulting in a birth injury.