Birth Injuries: Erb’s Palsy

When American parents go to a hospital to deliver their babies, they believe that they are going to a safe place where they will have an injury-free birth. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. A variety of severe injuries can occur during labor and delivery which could turn the typically joyful experience of welcoming a child into the world into a traumatic event for both the injured child and their parents. Some of these injuries are the result of negligence on the part of doctors and the other medical staff who are involved in the process of labor and delivery.

What is Erb’s Palsy?

One birth injury which is commonly associated with negligent action on the part of doctors and medical staff is Erb’s Palsy, a specific type of brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves which brings signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. Erb’s Palsy occurs when nerves which go from the neck through the shoulder are stretched or torn during delivery. When these nerves are damaged, the injured person cannot flex their elbow or move their shoulder through a full range of motion.

Is Erb’s Palsy Preventable?

Erb’s Palsy is one of a few different types of birth injuries which involve damage to the nerves in the brachial plexus. There is a specific set of circumstances under which brachial plexus injuries most commonly happen, and that is when shoulder dystocia occurs. Shoulder dystocia is a situation in which the baby’s position inside the birth canal makes it difficult for the baby’s shoulder to proceed through it.

Since not every birth which involves shoulder dystocia results in a brachial plexus injury, it is likely that at least some cases of Erb’s Palsy can be prevented. It has been shown that these injuries occur when excessive force is used to deliver the baby. Because of the force that they produce, things like forceps and vacuum extractors often contribute to brachial plexus injuries. When births are hurried along, whether by administering excessive Pitocin or by coaching a woman to labor too quickly, babies are more likely to experience shoulder dystocia. In contrast, when a woman is permitted to labor in an unhurried way, important adjustments to the baby’s position occur naturally between contractions so that the baby can be pushed through the birth canal instead of being pulled out of it. The position of a laboring woman can also affect the likelihood of shoulder dystocia. Back labor increases the risk of shoulder dystocia. To avoid or remedy shoulder dystocia, medical staff can assist laboring women into different positions which may help the baby to move through the pelvis.

What is the Standard of Care in Birth Injury Cases?

Obstetricians, midwives, and the medical staff who assist them are specially trained to deliver babies safely. These individuals must treat their patients in a manner which meets or exceeds a professional specialty standard of care. When the professional specialty standard of care is not met, medical malpractice law provides recourse for victims by enabling them to hold negligent parties liable for their injuries.

Peter Thompson & Associates: Helping Birth Injury Victims Across Maine

If your child suffered a brachial plexus injury which resulted in Erb’s palsy, the personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates want to help you. Our offices are conveniently located in Portland, Bangor, and Falmouth, making our dedicated team of professionals easily accessible to you. Please call us today, at 1 800.804.2004 to schedule your free initial consultation.

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