What is Erb’s palsy?

If you are a pregnant North Carolina woman looking forward with great joy to welcoming your new child into the world, you should be aware of Erb’s palsy, a potentially debilitating birth injury your baby could suffer. Unfortunately, Erb’s palsy represents one of the more common birth injuries in the U.S.

The American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine explains that Erb’s palsy occurs when your baby’s brachial nerves become pinched or otherwise damaged during your labor and delivery. While some children spontaneously recover from Erb’s palsy, others must undergo surgical procedures in order to minimize or eradicate the serious effects Erb’s palsy can produce in a child’s arms and shoulders, up to and including paralysis.

Risk factors

Your baby’s Erb’s palsy risk increases with each of the following:

  • (S)he grows very large in your womb and weighs more than normal when born.
  • You have a smaller than normal birth canal.
  • Your OB/GYN must assist the birth by means of vacuum extraction and/or forceps.
  • (S)he delivers while you are in your labor’s second stage.
  • One or more of your older children had or has Erb’s palsy.

Initial treatment

Even if your baby suffers from Erb’s palsy at birth, (s)he may “outgrow” it by the time (s)he celebrates his or her first birthday. Given this very real possibility, your pediatrician may well counsel against surgical intervention that could be premature or even possibly unnecessary. While you will no doubt find this wait-and-see attitude difficult to deal with, you should nevertheless listen to your child’s doctor. (S)he likely will suggest that your little one get reasonably extensive physical therapy to minimize the damage Erb’s palsy causes and prevent it from becoming worse.

However, in the event your child does not outgrow Erb’s palsy on his or her own, your pediatrician ultimately likely will recommend surgical intervention. Without it, your child could face a lifetime of arm, shoulder and hand problems.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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