Unfortunately, six out of every 1,000 babies in the United States sustain some type of birth injury. While many of these are minor, including mild bruising, some can be catastrophic. Brain damage can result from loss of oxygen during birth. Another injury is nerve damage, which can lead to facial paralysis and Erb’s palsy, a condition that develops when shoulder dystocia happens and harms certain nerves.
What Are Nerve Injuries?
A nerve injury happens from pressure, stretching, or some other type of trauma that can stop the transmission of signals to and from the brain, causing muscles to stop working or an overall loss of feeling in a certain area. There are various ways a baby can injure a nerve. The most common type is a peripheral nerve injury. These nerves send commands from the brain the legs, arms, hands, and feet and can easily get compressed during birth trauma.
What Are Common Nerve Injuries Suffered During Childbirth?
The consequences of nerve injuries sustained during childbirth can be devastating for families. They not only place emotional strain on parents who must cope with the distressing reality of their newborn's condition, but also have a significant financial impact, as ongoing medical treatments may be required. Furthermore, a child with nerve damage could experience developmental delays or lifelong disabilities, profoundly impacting the child's quality of life and the family dynamic.
Conditions that Can Result from Nerve Injury During Childbirth:
- Erb's Palsy: This condition is one of the many conditions that can result from brachial plexus injuries. It leads to weakness, loss of sensation, and even paralysis of the affected arm.
- Facial Paralysis: Pressure on the baby's face during labor or birth can damage the facial nerves, resulting in inability to control facial muscles on the affected side.
- Phrenic Nerve Injury: Damage to this nerve can affect normal breathing, requiring the baby to have mechanical breathing assistance.
- Horner’s Syndrome: An injury to the nerves that run along the neck and face can cause drooping eyelids, decreased sweating, and smaller pupil size in the affected eye.
- Diaphragmatic Paralysis: Nerve damage can cause paralysis of the diaphragm, which can lead to breathing difficulties.
If you suspect that your child has sustained a nerve injury during birth, it may be worth discussing your case with a birth injury lawyer. They can guide you through the process of seeking compensation to cover medical expenses and secure the best care for your child.
Signs and Symptoms of Nerve Injuries
If your child is suffering from nerve damage, he/she may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pricking sensations
- Sensitivity to touch
- Muscle weakness
- Burning pain
- Muscle wasting
How Are Nerve Injuries Diagnosed?
Your baby’s medical provider will perform a physical examination to assess your baby’s muscle control to determine if he/she has been affected by a nerve injury. This provider will also check to see if any sensations have also suffered. Additional tests may be provided if the provider feels the injury is more serve. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Electromyogram (EMG)
- Never conduction study (measures how well the nerves can send electrical signals from the spinal cord to the muscles)
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
How Are Nerve Injuries Treated?
Treatment for a nerve damage will vary according to what your provider finds appropriate. If the pain is severe, your child may require a nerve block procedure. This is performed by injecting numbing medication around the nerves where the pain is located. Additional treatment may include:
- Pain relievers
- Occupational therapy
- Desensitization therapy
- Physical therapy
- Electrode nerve stimulation
As birth injuries are caused by the negligent action or inaction of medical professionals, it is imperative that you consult with a medical malpractice attorney if your baby was injured during childbirth. The misuse of forceps or suction tools can lead to nerve damage and other birth injuries. It is a medical professional’s responsibility to look out for any issues that may arise during childbirth. Negligent medical providers should be held accountable for not catching something that could potentially harm a child.
If you recently experienced a delivery where your baby suffered nerve damage, contact a medical malpractice attorney from our firm online or by calling (718) 866-3664 to discuss your legal rights and options.