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August 19, 2019


Sometimes during labor and delivery things go wrong. Complications can cause significant long-term damage and disabilities. In fact, it is estimated that 28,000 babies are born every year with birth injuries in the United States. These birth injuries can range from minor facial lacerations to more serious brain damage

Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that affects two out of every 1,000 babies that are born. The long-term effects of Erb’s palsy can range from mild to severe, depending on the severity of the birth injury suffered during delivery. In general, however, babies with Erb’s palsy will experience some degree of temporary or permanent nerve damage.

What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is a type of obstetric brachial plexus disorder. This injury occurs when the nerves of a baby’s upper arms suffer damage during the labor or delivery process. Typically, the injury occurs in the baby’s neck and shoulder, near the fifth and sixth cranial nerves. It is most commonly caused by shoulder dystocia during difficult births.

When a baby has Erb’s palsy, they can’t move their affected shoulder or upper arm. However, they may have some movement in their fingers. Essentially, it looks like the baby’s arm is paralyzed. In some more severe cases, Erb’s palsy can affect the entire trunk.

What Causes Erb’s Palsy?

One of the most common causes of Erb’s palsy is shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia happens when a baby’s head has emerged from the birth canal, but the shoulders become stuck.  

In an attempt to remove the baby from the birth canal, doctors may pull on the baby, causing undue stress on the neck and shoulder area. This stress can cause nerve damage and pain in the shoulder, arm, and neck. In extreme cases, when the nerves have been torn, moved, or completely detached, the harm can lead to a lifetime of disability and suffering.

Preventing Shoulder Dystocia and Erb’s Palsy

In many situations, a baby may be eased out of the birth canal successfully without damaging the delicate nerves of the brachial plexus.

When a baby’s shoulders are stuck inside of the birth canal, doctors may use well-known medical maneuvers to help deliver the baby safely.

If the baby is large or if the mother’s pelvis is too small or narrow, the doctor may decide that a C-section is the best option for ensuring safe delivery.

When doctors use excessive force, incorrect medical maneuvers, or fail to make a decision to perform a C-section, your baby may suffer from unnecessary nerve trauma.

Your Baby is Diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy – Now What?

Erb’s palsy is frightening for many families. Watching their newborn baby experience paralysis in their arms can be devastating.

Parents whose babies have suffered from Erb’s palsy may wish to speak to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer soon after diagnosis to determine if they have a cause to file a claim. If the doctor or medical professional deviated from the standard of care when delivering the baby, they can – and should – be held accountable for the harm they’ve caused.

Contact Our Providence Birth Injury Lawyers Today

If your baby suffered from shoulder dystocia after birth and was diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, you should contact a birth injury law firm immediately to review your legal options. At Mandell, Boisclair & Mandell, Ltd, our Providence birth injury lawyers believe in holding negligent doctors, nurses, and medical institutions accountable for the harm they’ve caused.

We work tirelessly to help injured children and their families obtain justice after a serious birth injury. That’s why we work so hard for our families, every step of the way. Call us today at 401-204-1610 or fill out our confidential contact form for a free initial consultation and review of your case.