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What is Erb's palsy and shoulder dystocia?: Part 2

The previous post began to discuss brachial plexus birth injuries, Erb's palsy and other nerve injuries as part of a five-part series on birth injuries on this blog. The first post in the series discussed excessive jaundice and kernicterus in newborns.

Brachial palsy can result from shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the shoulder of the baby gets stuck in the birth canal after the baby's head has emerged. If there are risk factors for a difficult delivery, a C-section is often done, but sometimes these risk factors are not recognized and a preventable birth injury results.

If a mother is diabetic, it could lead to a larger than average newborn, which could result in shoulder dystocia and brachial palsy. A breech birth is also a risk factor for brachial palsy.

Infants may have brachial palsy or a related condition if they are not moving one of their arms. Pseudoparalysis may result if an infant appears to be paralyzed but actually has a fracture and is not moving an arm because of pain. A fracture usually will heal much faster than damaged nerves.

Many infants recover before they are six months old, but others will require surgery and physical therapy. Some infants with brachial palsy may have total and permanent loss of function in some nerves in the affected arm.

The next post will discuss gestational diabetes.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine, PubMed Health, "Brachial palsy in newborns," December 11, 2009

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