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Understanding Erb’s palsy

As a Tennessee mother-to-be, your developing baby’s health, welfare and safety likely always is at the top of your mind. You consequently do everything in your power to maintain your own good health so that (s)he will benefit from it. Unfortunately, however, you have no control over every aspect of your baby’s birth.

Birth injuries occur in a reasonably small percentage of American births. Nevertheless, if your baby is one who receives a birth injury, those small numbers in no way console you. Depending on precisely which birth injury your baby suffers, the results could have far-reaching effects. Erb’s palsy is one such potentially catastrophic birth injury.

Erb’s palsy causes

Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that affects your baby’s brachial plexus nerves, i.e., those nerves that begin in his or her spinal cord, radiate upward to his or her armpits, and from there down through his or her arms. If the birthing process stretches or otherwise damages these nerves, your baby could experience weakness and reduced feeling in his or her arms. In severe cases of Erb’s palsy, the arms become paralyzed.

Keep in mind that while Erb’s palsy can cause catastrophic consequences, many babies actually outgrow this condition on their own and without any medical intervention. If your baby is not one of the lucky ones, however, (s)he likely will face several surgeries to prevent or minimize what could be a lifelong problem.

Erb’s palsy risk factors

While any baby can suffer from Erb’s palsy, your baby’s risk increases with any of the following conditions:

  • (S)he is an especially large baby
  • You are an especially small woman
  • The doctor must use mid- or low-level forceps to deliver him or her
  • The doctor must use vacuum extraction to deliver him or her
  • His or her delivery occurs during your second stage of labor
  • One or more of your baby’s older siblings was or is an Erb’s palsy victim

Initial Erb’s palsy treatment

Since, as stated, some babies outgrow Erb’s palsy during their first year of life, your baby’s doctors likely will recommend nothing other than a course of physical therapy up until his or her first birthday. Should the Erb’s palsy not resolve itself by then, however, the doctors likely will recommend surgery at that point.

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