When you are expecting a baby, prenatal care and routine tests help ensure that your child is born healthy. Even in the best of circumstances, however, some infants receive injuries during childbirth.
Erb’s palsy occurs in about one or two of every 1,000 live births. While the condition can also affect older children and adults, it most commonly occurs in newborns due to a birth injury.
What are the symptoms?
The most apparent symptom of Erb’s palsy in a newborn is limpness or paralysis of one arm. The baby’s wrist and fingers curl backward, a characteristic that some refer to as the “waiter’s tip position.”
What causes Erb’s palsy?
Erb’s palsy is the result of an injury to the brachial plexus nerves. These are the nerves that connect the shoulder, arm and hand to the spinal cord.
In some cases, the baby’s position in the womb can compress these nerves. However, many nerve injuries occur during delivery due to the healthcare provider rotating or pulling on the infant’s head or shoulders. Very large or breech babies are at increased risk of birth injuries because they may become stuck in the birth canal.
Is Erb’s palsy permanent?
Most babies with Erb’s palsy make a full recovery. A doctor or physical therapist may recommend exercises to keep the muscles strong and prevent permanent joint damage. Severe cases that do not respond to therapy may require surgery.
A few children experience lifelong complications. Nerve damage may affect growth, causing the injured arm to be slightly smaller than the other. Some children have a limited range of motion in the affected arm.
By knowing the signs and risk factors of Erb’s palsy, you can ensure that your baby receives the best possible treatment.