A recent column in The Holland Sentinel discussed brachial plexus injuries and how they can be preventable. The author of the column has a boy who was born with Erb's palsy because he had a difficult delivery and the nerves in his shoulder were damaged while he was being born. The baby was stuck in the birth canal and was pushed on by a nurse and pulled by a doctor in order to be born, which took a final three hours of labor.
The column doesn't say, but it's possible the boy had shoulder dystocia, which means that the shoulder becomes stuck in the birth canal after the head emerges. It could also be that there was a breech birth or other issue that caused the boy's shoulder to be pulled on away from the head in a way that caused serious nerve damage in his arm.
If certain risk factors are present, an obstetrician could decide to order a C-section in order to avoid a difficult delivery and possible brachial plexus injury and/or shoulder dystocia.
A week in the middle of October was designated as Brachial Plexus Injury Awareness Month in order to educate pregnant woman or new mothers about an injury that could affect their newborn. The next post will further discuss Erb's palsy.
Source: The Holland Sentinel, "Brachial plexus: A child's injury that doesn't have to happen," Annette Manwell, Oct. 31, 2011