Editor’s note: The following is a guest article submitted by Birth Injury Guide. As is always the case, we strongly recommend you consult your physician for health related questions and concerns. Lisa
Unfortunately, there are instances during the birthing process that results in injuries to an infant. In some cases, these injuries can cause minor bruising, yet at other times, birth injuries can lead to medical problems that last a lifetime. Two of the most common disorders that result from birth trauma are cerebral palsy (CP) and Erb’s palsy.
Birth Injury Causes
A difficult delivery is common when birth injuries occur, but it’s the cause of the stressful delivery that usually leads to injuries.
For example, fetal macrosomia, a condition marked by infants too large for their gestational age, puts added pressure and complications during labor, especially if a mother’s pelvis is not large enough for the baby to pass through.
Other common reasons for birth injuries include:
- Premature delivery: Babies born prematurely are generally much more fragile than infants born full-term, and are more susceptible to injuries.
- Breech or feet-first delivery
- Prolonged labor
- Improper use of birth-assisting tools, such as forceps or a vacuum-extraction tool
Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injuries
Cerbral Palsy is a neurological disorder that prevents normal coordination and movement. Although the root cause of CP is not always found, many cases have been linked to trauma during birth.
For instance, if an infant is lodged in the mother’s pelvic area during birth, there is a chance of oxygen loss if the physician cannot delivery the baby quickly. Even a minute of oxygen loss can result in devastating effects on a baby. If oxygen loss occurs, there is a chance of brain damage, which leads to CP.
In addition to abnormal coordination and uncontrolled movements, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests children with CP may experience cognitive and sensory disabilities. Cognitive and sensory disabilities range in severity, depending upon how serious the brain damage is, and include:
- Delays in age-appropriate cognitive milestones
- Poor self-control
- Poor decision-making skills
- Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Speech and language difficulties, typically associated with slight hearing loss
It’s important to note, however, that although all children with CP have some form of uncontrollable muscle movement, not all children will experience cognitive and sensory disabilities.
Erb’s Palsy and Birth Injuries
Erb’s palsy is a form of a medical condition known as brachial plexus palsy, an injury that affects the nerves in the infant’s brachial plexus (a network of nerves that run from the spine, throughout the arms, and the armpits).
Erb’s palsy is caused by damage to the upper nerves of the affected area. In most instances, Erb’s palsy happens during birth, and again, typically during a difficult delivery.
Shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the baby’s shoulders are lodged in the birth canal, is often associated with Erb’s palsy. Physicians have a limited amount of time to delivery the infant before other medical problems arise, and sometimes forceful tugging or hasty use of birth-assisting tools damages the baby’s nerves.
Other causes of Erb’s palsy include delivering an infant in the breech position or delivery baby unusually large in size and weight.
Symptoms and Erb’s palsy include:
- Weakness and/or paralysis of the affected arm
- The affected arm may be bent towards the body
- Inability to move the arm and/or shoulder on the affected side
Although Erb’s palsy typically clears on its own within two to six months, severe cases may require surgery and long-term physical therapy.
For more in-depth resources, Birth Injury Guide offers comprehensive information on all aspects of birth injuries, including causes, treatment options, diagnosis, long-term outlook, and more.