While no childbirth ever seems especially easy for the mother or baby, some can be especially difficult. In such scenarios, a number of injuries to the child can occur, one being Erb’s palsy. Sometimes a doctor may pull too hard on the infant, harming their neck. Although this could be medical malpractice, often the doctor is worried that the baby being stuck could result in much worse problems.
Injured Areas Resulting in Erb’s Palsy
By putting undue stress on the baby’s neck, nerves known as the brachial plexus can be damaged. This is why the injury is sometimes called brachial plexus palsy. It also goes by the name shoulder dystocia. In any case, the injury results from these important nerves being damaged or shifted.
The brachial plexus nerves start at the top of the spine and run through the neck and down the arm, spanning the shoulder and armpit area as well.
There are many symptoms associated with this injury. It all depends on where the damage occurs and its severity. Common symptoms include:
Immobile Arm or Shoulder– Perhaps the most common symptom exhibited by an infant with Erb’s palsy is being incapable of moving the arm or shoulder on the affected side shortly after birth. While it is true that babies do not display a lot of mobility early on, they should be able to move their arms even though it might not be much.
Arms Bent In – If the brachial plexus has been damaged, it will be most comfortable for your baby to move their arm inward. In this case, the arm will almost always be bent in or move in an abnormal fashion. Usually, their affected arm will remain limp.
Weak Reflexes or Lack Thereof – Any nerve damage will result in some issues with reactions. With the brachial plexus being injured, your child probably will not feel anything at all. Something squeezing the affected area probably will not illicit a reaction.
Loss of Feeling – Along the same lines, your baby’s arm may act as though it is completely asleep. This means they may not move it at all and, once again it will not respond in the slightest to stimulus.
Pain – Your baby may be suffering from pain in the area despite the fact that nothing has happened to them that would cause it. Pain may be happening in their neck, but usually it occurs in their arm or shoulder. Sadly, the pain can be quite intense, which is why your baby might cry loudly or give off high-pitched screams, especially if the injured area is touched. Of course, this can be tough to identify with a newborn, as they cry and often it seems to be for no reason at all. Other times, you may think they are just tired or hungry.
Weak Grip – Erb’s palsy can even affect the grip of your child, despite the brachial plexus being centered closer to their shoulder. One way you can test for this on your own is by placing an object in each hand. Then simply pay attention to how strongly they grip both. While the infant may not have any grip whatsoever, even a weak grip is a red flag.
Waiter’s Tip – Those familiar with Erb’s palsy have identified what they refer to as the “waiter’s tip.” It is a posture that often suggests the brachial plexus has been injured. This posture is characterized by an arm that hangs limply to their side with their hand open, facing outward and their fingers out at a 90 degree angle. As this is one of the most common symptoms of Erb’s palsy, it is absolutely essential to take note if your baby does this regularly.
Even if you think labor was relatively easy, any of the above symptoms should grab your attention. If you are unsure, see a physician as soon as you can to be on the safe side.