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Common causes of a brachial plexus birth injury

If you are expecting, you may worry about the birth of your child and what can go wrong. Some birth injuries occur simply by accident, through circumstances that no one could possibly control. Other injuries occur due to doctor negligence. For example, infant brachial plexus injuries might occur due to trauma that occurred prior to labor and delivery, or it could happen because of the doctor's actions during the birth.

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that travel through the spine, neck and arms. In most cases, the brachial plexus suffers injury due to a longer than normal or hard labor and delivery. If the brachial plexus becomes damaged during the birth process, your child could suffer from a lack of sensation and movement in the shoulders, arms, hands, and parts of the back and chest. Often, this injury will occur as the baby passes through the birth canal. The effects can range from mild to severe depending on how the injury occurred, where the damage was done, and the type of nerve damage.

Four types

In general, there are four types of injuries that affect the brachial plexus. Each type has its own set of symptoms and methods of diagnosis. A baby might suffer from upper plexus lesions, posterior cord lesions, lower plexus lesions, or a complete brachial plexus injury.

Risk factors

There are several risk factors that can increase the chances of a brachial plexus injury. For example, if the baby is born breech, there is a greater risk of the condition. Also, if the baby is especially large and the mother is diabetic, this can also lead to an injury. In addition, if the mother or unborn child experienced trauma during the pregnancy, a brachial plexus injury is more likely to occur.

Birthing tools and excessive pulling

In some cases, the baby may become stuck in the mother's pelvic bone or the birth canal. When this happens, doctors tend to use forceps or a vacuum-extraction tool to assist with the birth. If the doctor uses these incorrectly, it could result in a brachial plexus injury. Even if the doctor forgoes the use of the tools and simply tries to pull the baby out, excessive force can also cause these types of birth injuries.

If you are expecting, you may want to consider talking with your doctor about what to do if the birth is difficult and there is an increased risk of a birth injury. Take whatever steps possible to ensure you and your child complete the birth process injury-free.

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