Erb’s Palsy

How Can I Tell if My Baby Has Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy may show varying degrees of weakness or paralysis of the shoulder, arm, or hand. A baby with Erb’s palsy usually holds her limp arm down by her side with forearm turned inward and wrist bent. The baby is unable to lift the arm. A baby with a very bad Erb’s palsy injury may have a droopy eyelid on the side that was injured, in addition to an injury to his arm and hand.

Do babies with Erb’s palsy have pain?

Babies will suffer moderate to severe pain and intense tingling. Babies have impaired muscular, nervous, and circulatory development. The affected arm will be much weaker than the unaffected arm. The affected arm will lack circulatory development and will be unable to regulate temperature which is not safe during cold weather. Also the skin on the affected arm takes longer to heal with frequent infections.

What percent of babies with Erb’s palsy regain full use of arm?

If surgery is done between 4 and 12 months, restoration of function to the upper extremities has an 85 to 95 percent success rate. By age 2, there is no drastic improvement. Long term Erb’s palsyvictims may require special adaptive equipment and lifestyle modifications.

My baby has brachial palsy: What should I do?

In mild cases, no action may be needed following a brachial palsy diagnosis. Some less serious symptoms will clear up on their own. Other brachial palsy babies are not as fortunate. These babies will need medication, repeated physical therapy and testing and in some cases surgery.

You should contact a birth injury lawyer to find out if there is a medical malpractice lawsuit on the horizon. Nerve damage to your baby caused by shoulder dystocia is mostly preventable. Brachial palsy and Erb’s palsy are frequently caused by medical negligence.

Parents of a baby with brachial palsy will have numerous medical bills and medical equipment which your health insurance probably won’t cover. Parents of a baby with brachial palsy will need to take time off work and rearrange their lives to accommodate surgery, physical therapy, doctor visits, and surgery.

Medical Malpractice: Shoulder Dystocia, Stuck Shoulder, Childbirth Complications

What is Shoulder Dystocia?

Medical Malpractice: Shoulder Dystocia / Stuck Shoulder / Childbirth Complications

Shoulder dystocia (stuck shoulder) is what happens when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during childbirth. Stuck shoulder is an obstetric emergency, requiring immediate action by an expert medical team in order to avoid serious complications.

What is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia frequently is benign. Yet, for some, shoulder dystocia has severe consequences. Babies suffer from Erb’s palsy and brachial plexus palsy (nerve damage that causes deformity and permanent disability), broken bones, permanent brain damage due to suffocation during birth, and death. Mothers may suffer from uterine rupture, hemorrhage, painful separation of pelvic bones, a permanent opening that tears between the vagina and rectum and is subject to many infections.

Although stuck shoulder births are hard to predict, the first sign of a problem is when the baby’s shoulder doesn’t appear right after her head or if the head appears and then retreats. Some risk factors associated with stuck shoulder are: unusually long labor, gestational or maternal diabetes, using forceps with the birth, a petite mother, delivery after due date, abnormally shaped pelvis, excessive weight gain during pregnancy, and an oversized baby. Stuck shoulder affects 0.25 percent to one percent of U.S. births per year.

Medical malpractice results when a doctor does not provide the best care possible or fails to live up to a standard of care recognized by the medical community. Do you have a medical malpractice lawsuit caused by shoulder dystocia?

Ignoring risk factors could justify medical malpractice. Medical malpractice may happen when a doctor uses excessive force to reposition the baby, tearing nerves causing Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus palsy which causes partial or complete paralysis. Paralysis may last for a few months, a few years, or forever. Paralysis leaves babies and children with limited use of their arms, atrophied arms, and disfigurement. Sometimes multiple surgeries and physical therapy correct the problem and sometimes not, causing permanent disabilities.

Please contact Monheit Law for a free legal consultation.
By answering a few questions, you are under no obligation to continue. If you decide to retain us and we decide to take your case, it will be on a contingency basis which means if we don’t win the medical malpractice lawsuit for you – Monheit Law does not get paid. We’re motivated to win and seek justice on your behalf.

Can Shoulder Dystocia be Prevented?

Dystocia means difficult childbirth.

Shoulder dystocia is considered a medical emergency. Doctors may panic by pulling on the baby’s head which stretches and injures the nerves in the stuck shoulder. The baby may die from compression of the umbilical cord within the birth canal.

Has your doctor determined if your pelvic area can deliver a baby if shoulder dystocia should occur? Are you at risk for high birth weight or gestational or maternal diabetes? Have you had a previous childbirth which also suffered shoulder dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia can be prevented if the medical team has shoulder dystocia experience and is well prepared to deal with dystocia complications, should they arise.

Can shoulder dystocia be avoided?

Shoulder dystocia can be avoided. The overall incidence of shoulder dystocia varies based on fetal weight. Shoulder dystocia occurs in 0.6 to 1.4 percent of all infants with a birth weight of 5 lbs 8 oz to 8 lbs 13 oz. The bigger the baby, the higher the percentage of shoulder dystocia cases increasing to 5 to 9 percent risk in mothers who have diabetes.

Pulling on the baby’s head stretches and injures the nerves in the stuck shoulder. The injured nerves are between the shoulder and the neck.

There are numerous maneuvers which should be done. If one doesn’t work, doctors note the timing and go onto the next. Knowing these maneuvers, practicing these maneuvers, and making these maneuvers part of obstetric training is essential to the health and safety of mothers and babies.

The maneuvers should accomplish one of the following – increase the pelvis size, decrease the diameter of the shoulders, or alter the relationship of one or the other in order to pass through the birth canal. In most cases, the maneuvers will be successful.

But not always…the odds are in the mother and baby’s favor if the hospital staff knows what to do.

Is Erb’s palsy preventable?

Yes. When shoulder dystocia goes wrong, the result is Erb’s Palsy. Like shoulder dystocia, Erb’s palsy can be prevented when an obstetrician identifies patients at risk by taking a medical history, by estimating the baby’s birth weight, by testing for gestational diabetes with a glucose tolerance test.

Is shoulder dystocia predictable?

Yes. There are three categories of shoulder dystocia predictors: Has the mother had a previous childbirth where shoulder dystocia occurred; maternal obesity; and maternal age. Maternal obesity is defined as having a body mass index or BMI of 30 or greater. Over 35 years of age is considered old by pregnancy standards.

More risk factors for shoulder dystocia are:

  • Abnormal pelvic anatomy
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Post-dates pregnancy
  • Short stature
  • Suspected macrosomia (large baby weight)
  • Assisted vaginal delivery (forceps or vacuum)
  • Protracted active phase of first-stage labor
  • Protracted second-stage labor

Larger babies are more likely to get stuck. Diabetic mothers’ babies will have a larger head circumference. Diagnostic tools should focus on which babies will be larger than normal especially when mothers are diabetic.

If the doctor, nurse practitioner, or midwife fails to recognize these signs and/or take the required precaution, this may be viewed in the legal world as negligent behavior or medical malpractice for abirth injury lawsuit.