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Brachial Plexus & Cerebral Palsy: Know the Risks during ChildbirthHaving a baby should be a happy experience for expectant parents. Your biggest concerns are making sure your baby enters the world safe and healthy, and that you have a solid plan for making it to the hospital when the time comes.

Unfortunately, even with the healthiest of new mothers and babies, an act of medical negligence can still lead to a wide range of birth injuries. Infants can suffer from brachial plexus injuries, or develop cerebral palsy or hearing loss from improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction during delivery. These birthing tools can cause serious damage to the head, neck and shoulders of a newborn.

What is brachial plexus injury?

Brachial plexus injury, which is the blanket term encompassing several injuries (like Erb’s palsy), is a condition that affects the nerves providing feeling and muscle control in the shoulder, arm, forearm, hand, and fingers. Infants who experience breech birth or whose shoulders are wider than the birth canal can suffer injury.

Another way this injury can occur is if the mother experiences long-term labor and the obstetrician pulls out the baby using forceps or vacuum suction. The combination of applying pressure to the head with the motion of pulling can cause nerves to stretch or tear, especially if performed improperly. This injury occurs in approximately three of every 1,000 births.

Sometimes this injury heals on its own, and others will require physical therapy to regain movement and feeling. The extent of the damage will dictate the recovery time, and it can take anywhere between eight to 26 months for a child to reach maximum improvement.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy results from brain damage caused by pressure and pulling on the baby’s head during childbirth. It affects motor skills, muscle tone, movement, and coordination. Essential life functions are also affected, such as breathing, bladder and bowel control, eating, and talking. For every 1,000 children, cerebral palsy affects 1.5 to four births.

Vision and hearing loss can also result from hypoxia, when an obstetrician is careless in using forceps or vacuum pressure to remove the baby from the birth canal. Children with these injuries often experience learning disabilities from resulting brain damage.

There is no cure for cerebral palsy; however, a child’s quality of life can be improved through surgery, various forms of physical and speech therapy, and technology for mobility and communication.

In many cases, epidurals are used to dull the pain of childbirth. Unfortunately, epidurals can increase the incidence of assisted deliveries using forceps and vacuums.

There is no excuse when an infant suffers preventable injuries in childbirth. The Phoenix birth injury attorneys at Plattner Verderame, P.C. stand up for families whose children suffered birth injuries and works to secure compensation for their losses. For a free, no-obligation case evaluation in our Phoenix or Tempe office, reach out to a member of our firm by calling 602-266-2002 or by completing our contact form.