Nerve Injuries During Birth: How Do They Happen?


An infant could suffer a nerve injury before birth or during delivery. The three most common kinds of birth-related nerve injuries are facial nerve, brachial plexus, and phrenic nerve injuries. The fourth kind of nerve injury, spinal cord nerve injuries, is rarer but is often more severe and could potentially result in paralysis.

Facial Nerve Injuries

A facial nerve injury often occurs when pressure is placed on the nerve. While some are the result of awkward positioning before birth or during delivery, some facial nerve injuries are caused by the improper use of forceps.

A facial nerve injury is usually evident when a baby’s face appears to be lopsided, and the muscle weakness may not require any treatment as it could resolve itself within a matter of a few months. Some facial nerve weakness is associated with congenital disorders that are not birth injuries.

Brachial Plexus Injuries

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves extending from the spinal cord through the neck and into the armpit. The brachial plexus can be injured during childbirth if a baby’s arms are stretched during delivery, and brachial plexus injuries can cause weakness or paralysis in part or all of the child’s arms and hands.

Erb palsy refers to nerve damage in the shoulder and elbow while Klumpke palsy refers to nerve damage in the hand and wrist. Half of the brachial plexus injuries are occur when a delivery is difficult (such as an infant with a larger birth size) and are less common in babies delivered by cesarean section.

Mild brachial plexus injuries could resolve on their own in a matter of days, but symptoms that persist weeks after delivery could require physical therapy or occupational therapy. Continued difficulty after several months could involve surgery.

Phrenic Nerve Injuries

The phrenic nerve begins in the neck and passes through the heart and lungs to the diaphragm. Damage to the phrenic nerve could result in possibly paralysis of the diaphragm.

Phrenic nerve injuries could lead to difficulty breathing, and some children will require assistance breathing. Most mild phrenic nerve injuries will resolve on their own in only a few weeks.

Spinal Cord Injuries

Unlike the other types of nerve injuries mentioned above, damage to the nerves in the spinal cord could result in paralysis or could prove to be fatal. For example, a spinal cord nerve injury to the upper neck could prevent a child from breathing properly. Other nerves that could also be injured during birth include the radial nerve in the arm, the sciatic nerve in the lower back, and the obturator nerve in the leg.

Contact a New York Birth Injury Lawyer

Finz & Finz, P.C., has provided compassionate representation for clients with birth injury claims since 1984, and we have a record of success that includes more than half a billion dollars in verdicts and settlements obtained for our clients. Our firm will be ready to provide an honest and thorough evaluation of your case as soon as you call (855) TOP-FIRM or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.