The expression “a difficult delivery” is one that most mothers dread. It can mean a very long labor or it can mean that the baby is somehow in a position that makes vaginal delivery uncomfortable or even risky. Sometimes, this scenario can be alleviated through surgical methods or through the use of birth assistance devices like forceps or vacuum extraction equipment.
However, it cannot be ignored that a difficult delivery may lead to the development of some unexpected conditions. One that is common to difficult birthing processes is Klumpke’s palsy. This is something that occurs frequently with large babies and very small mothers, or when the baby’s body is in an unusual position (breech, face down, exiting with one shoulder wedged against the pelvic or pubic bones, one arm over the head, and so on).
What is Klumpke’s palsy?
It is a form of nerve damage. It strikes the brachial plexus nerves, of which there are five. This network helps to operate the hands, wrist flexors, forearms, and armpits. During a difficult delivery, the area in which the brachial plexus nerves are found may be unduly strained or compressed. This can cause anything from an overextension to a full avulsion (severing) of the nerves.
When this happens, a baby may be born with what appears to be paralysis or even claw-like hands. These signs would all be caused by whatever damage or harm has come to the nerves.
Recognizing Klempke’s Palsy
Sadly, there are several types of palsy that can appear similar to Klempke’s palsy, and all can happen during childbirth. To identify Klempke’s palsy, the following symptoms would be sought:
- Asymmetrical problems (one sided)
- Hands held in a claw-like pose (often unable to move)
- Limp or seemingly paralyzed arms
- Lack of sensation in the arms and hands
- Lack of moro reflex
- Arm bent at the elbow and held against the body
- Lack of grip on the side affected
A baby exhibiting such symptoms, and perhaps indicating pain through excessive crying, would be evaluated for this condition.
Treating the Symptoms
Interestingly enough, because Klempke’s palsy can resolve itself if the nerve damage is not severe, physicians will use a period of watchful waiting to see whether progress is made during the first few weeks of life. If there is not adequate improvement or any at all, there will be surgical procedures done to repair the damaged nerves.
Additionally, any infant identified by the symptoms of Klempke’s palsy will also undergo physical therapy as well. This is to guarantee that no muscular atrophy occurs, that development is not interrupted, and that adequate blood flow reaches the healing nerves. The prognosis for patients is positive with a ninety to one hundred percent success rate in most cases.
Knowing What to Do
Keep in mind that modern delivery techniques should eliminate the risks of this condition for most babies. Monitoring throughout a pregnancy, which uses imaging techniques that show the baby’s size and position, can easily reveal when an infant may be at risk for this condition.
If it is clear that the baby’s position is abnormal and risky, a cesarean section can be ordered to prevent such harm. The use of birth assistance devices is never a preferable solution because they may be the direct cause of the injury.
If you were told that you might have a difficult delivery and yet no alternatives were offered, your child might have been wrongly put at risk for Klempke’s palsy. If this did occur and your child has to undergo a treatment or surgery for the condition, it might be due to medical malpractice. Talk to a birth injury lawyer about your case to determine if you must take further steps for compensation or damages.