Cerebral Palsy and Erb’s Palsy

The birth of a child is one of life’s most treasured and joyous events. That joy can be tainted or destroyed when the child suffers a debilitating or fatal birth injury due to a medical error.

Most birth injuries are preventable by proper monitoring of both the mother and the fetus during pregnancy and delivery. Children who suffer birth injuries can be disabled for life, require extensive medical care immediately after delivery, and may require life-long care.

The physical, emotional, and financial hardships that families experience can be overwhelming and life-altering. In some cases one or both parents will have to quit their jobs to care for the child, sometimes for the rest of that child’s life.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused by brain injury to a baby during pregnancy, delivery, or shortly after delivery. It affects muscle control and it can cause learning disabilities. Proper medical care and therapy are your child’s best hope of leading a normal life, but most children with cerebral palsy require life-long care.

Cerebral palsy will affect each child differently but some of the problems it can cause include speech impairment, visual impairment, hearing impairment, difficulty walking, difficulty eating, limited motor skills, paralysis, drooling, seizures, and incontinence.

Cerebral palsy causes include:

  • Lack of oxygen
  • Umbilical cord strangulation
  • Unreasonable delay in performing a c-section
  • Rh incompatibility
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Infection in mother or baby during pregnancy
  • Inappropriate medications during pregnancy
  • Kidney and urinary tract infections in the mother
  • Severe jaundice
  • Stroke
  • Failure to respond to fetal distress
  • Inappropriate use of forceps
  • Failure to treat infant seizures

Erb’s palsy

Another common birth injury is Erb’s palsy. Erb’s palsy does not affect the brain. It affects the shoulder, arm, and hand. In most cases, Erb’s palsy can be treated with therapy and exercise. In about 20% of cases, surgery is required. Most children can make a full recovery, but some are permanently disabled.

Erb’s palsy is caused by an injury to the brachial plexus during delivery. It is entirely preventable. The brachial plexus is a nerve bundle between the neck and shoulder. This nerve bundle can be damaged by too much force during delivery when the baby’s should is wedged behind the mother’s pubic bone. This is called shoulder dystocia.

Caesarian section is the best way to prevent Erb’s palsy, but when shoulder dystocia is not detected early enough to perform a C-section, there are several delivery methods that doctors can used to help prevent the trauma.

There are many warning signs doctors should look for that indicate a high risk of shoulder dystocia including:

  • Obesity in the mother
  • Advanced age of mother
  • Short or small mother
  • Diabetes in the mother
  • Flat, contracted or exceptionally small pelvis in the mother
  • Above-normal weight gain during pregnancy
  • High pre-birth weight of the baby
  • Abnormally long gestation period
  • Prolonged labor
  • Breech position