Complications in the delivery room can result in injuries to a baby that will impact them for the rest of their lives.
Cerebral palsy and Erbs palsy are the most common birth injuries. Although they both are often the result of childbirth complications, they are very different.
Disorders that affect a newborn’s brain functions and body movements are often referred to as cerebral palsy. Over 10,000 children are diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year.
Injuries that lead to cerebral palsy occur before, during or after delivery or within the first five years of a child’s life.
Causes of cerebral palsy include:
- Lack of oxygen flow to the brain
- Premature birth
- Use of prescription drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
- Bacterial and viral infections (like meningitis)
- Brain hemorrhaging
- Head injuries
- Severe jaundice
Cerebral palsy affects a child’s muscle control, coordination, posture and gait.
It may take a while after birth for a baby to show signs of cerebral palsy. Delays of developmental actions such as rolling over, smiling, crawling and talking can be symptoms of the disorder. Other indications include unusual posture, poor coordination, floppiness of limbs, involuntary movements and vision or hearing problems.
Although surgery, therapy and medication may help improve the child’s quality of life, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. It can also lead to other health problems as the child ages. Depending on the severity, some children may require lifelong care.
One in three of every 1,000 babies delivered suffers from Erb’s Palsy, which happens when the brachial plexus nerve network is damaged during delivery. The condition occurs more often in large babies that need the assistance of forceps or vacuum to be delivered.
The nerve group runs along the spinal cord and into the arms and hands. When the brachial plexus is compressed, stretched or torn during delivery, the infant can suffer paralysis or loss of muscle function in the shoulders, elbows, forearms or hands.
Signs of Erb’s palsy include the inability to move the arm, hands or fingers, weakness in one arm, or the baby’s arm hanging by the side.
Minor injuries like stretches (neurapraxia) can recover independently, while more severe injuries such as tears, ruptures, or avulsions may require surgery and may never fully improve.
The majority of infants born with Erb’s palsy will recover within three to nine months.
With the proper physical therapy, minor injuries will heal themselves.