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Birth Trauma: Arm and Shoulder Injuries During Childbirth

When your baby is injured during the birth process, it’s traumatic for your family.

Childbirth in America is supposed to be safe. And yet, your child has emerged with an injury that impairs their movement. It’s scary. What will the long-term consequences be? What will this cost your family? Will your baby recover?

Injuries during childbirth should be rare, but they are more common than you may think. Even more upsetting is that many childbirth injuries could have been prevented. Negligent medical staff often cause these serious, life-altering injuries.

A common set of injuries during childbirth are injuries to the shoulder and arms. These injuries include Shoulder Dystocia, Brachial Palsy, Erb’s Palsy and Krumpke Paralysis.

  • Brachial Palsy is typically an injury to the shoulder. The brachial nerves connect the shoulder to the neck.
  • Erb’s Palsy is a condition affecting the upper and lower arm.
  • Krumpke Paralysis is a condition that involves the hand and many times a droopy eyelid as well (typically on the opposite side of the body).
  • Shoulder Dystocia occurs when there is difficulty delivering the shoulder during childbirth.

What are the results of these shoulder and arm injuries?

  • Weakness in the arm, hand or shoulder.
  • Inability to fully rotate arm or shoulder.
  • Problems with grasping and gripping, which can impact eating, grasping and fine motor skills.
  • Weakness in the arms and shoulders which can impact crawling, sitting up, posture, and walking.
  • Loss of feeling in the arms and shoulders.
  • Swelling and bruising around the brachial nerve.
  • Torn nerves, causing permanent nerve damage.
  • Partial paralysis, which can be temporary or permanent.

How can these shoulder and arm injuries be prevented?

  • Better diagnostics during the pregnancy. Medical staff often underestimate the size and position of the baby during pregnancy and injure the baby during delivery. By proceeding with the childbirth and not recommending and pursuing a Caesarean section, the medical staff struggles to deliver the child and, placing undue stress on the baby’s delicate shoulders and arms, causes these conditions.
  • Breech birth occurs when the baby is facing the wrong way during childbirth. When doctors fail to diagnose the breech birth and make corrections, arm and shoulder injuries may occur.
  • Poor judgment during delivery on the part of medical and hospital staff also delay or eliminate the ability to deliver the baby without injury. Extended time in the birth canal, delayed childbirth and prolonged childbirth are all extremely dangerous to the baby and increase their potential to incur hand, shoulder and arm injuries.
  • Use of forceps can also cause injuries to the shoulder and arm area, resulting in lasting damage.

Treatment Options:

There are children who recover fully after sustaining these types of Traumatic Birth Injuries. Some regain normal or nearly normal functioning.

If the nerve damage is minor, it may heal naturally with physical therapy or other therapeutic interventions that typically have a goal of preventing the limb from atrophying or developing poorly. These therapeutic interventions may need to be ongoing throughout a child’s development. Regular monitoring with a physician is also a likely expectation.

Possible Surgical Intervention:

If the Traumatic Birth Injury is severe, surgery may be required. This is typically recommended when the child is at least several months old and not right after birth.

Often the surgical goal is the removal of scar tissue that may have grown around damaged nerves, so as to avoid pinching of the nerve. Removal of scar tissue may allow for healthier nerve healing and function.

Surgical intervention may be enough in some cases. In other instances, the affected nerves may still be unable to function properly and may not be able to effectively transmit the nerve’s electrical signals to the brain. There are surgeries that may address this, such as a nerve graft. In a nerve graft, surgeons replace the damaged portion of the nerve and replace it with healthy nerves taken from another body part.

The long-term consequences of arm, hand and shoulder injuries:

You may need to procure therapy and treatment for your child for a limited or an extended period of time. Some children may need ongoing daily physical You may also incur extra costs for other aspects of the daily care of your child.

Statute of Limitations:

In the State of Michigan there is a statute of limitations for birth injury cases. In most cases, 2 years is the time limit within which a birth trauma case needs to be filed. Because of this limitation, and in order to capture witness reports accurately, it is essential to meet with an attorney as soon after the birth as possible.

Calling Giroux Trial Attorneys should be the first thing on your to-do list when your baby suffers a birth trauma. We understand your immediate need to get medical fees paid and covered. We also want to ensure that insurance companies and medical professionals meet your child’s future needs. We also think it’s important for medical staff to learn from their mistakes, so they don’t injure other families’ precious children.

Call us for a free consultation. We collect no fees unless we win. At Giroux Trial Attorneys our trial attorneys practice Real Law. No Gimmicks. We cannot turn back the clock, but we can help you shape the future.

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