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Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

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Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

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Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

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Birth Paralysis

When an infant is born, the parents are focused on enjoying the new little member of the family. They expect to see ten perfect fingers and toes, waving in the air as the newborn adjusts to life. When some part of the infant’s body does not function properly, excitement turns to worry and fear.

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Paralysis in newborns is rare, but it can result from specific conditions that develop prior to or during birth, injuries that occur during birth and other medical conditions, including infections.

The Causes of Paralysis at Birth

Elk & Elk

One of the most common reasons a newborn may be paralyzed is due to complications in delivery. A prolonged delivery, oxygen deprivation or injury from the use of forceps or vacuum extractors may all result in temporary or permanent paralysis for a new baby.

A baby’s head or shoulders may get caught in the birth canal, requiring the doctor to use forceps to deliver the infant. In this situation, nerves can be damaged, which result in paralysis.

If a mother is relatively small or the baby is rather large at birth, it can cause complications that develop into a condition with paralysis. Some examples of conditions that may occur include the following:

  • Erb’s palsy
  • Klumpke’s palsy
  • Stroke
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Facial paralysis

These are just a few of the many conditions that can develop during birth, which may cause paralysis in newborn children.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Depending on the severity of the condition, it may not be diagnosed at birth. For mild cases of Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy, it may only be diagnosed if the infant does not develop motor control according to expected developmental milestones.

While many people think of paralysis as a total inability to move one or more limbs, it can also be a weakness in a limb. While the baby may be able to move, it may not be as strong as it should be. Sometimes a diagnosis is made at a regular checkup.

Treatment for paralysis will depend on the underlying condition. In many cases, physical therapy is used to help the infant develop strength while the damaged nerves heal. In some situations, no treatment is necessary while serious cases require surgery.

Prognosis and Life Expectancy

Paralysis is often not permanent for infants. Depending on the cause, the baby may heal in a few months or recover most of their mobility. Certain conditions, such as cerebral palsy, are permanent and so are many of the symptoms associated with it. If the nerves are severed, there is often no way to repair them so that they can send messages to the muscles. This will result in permanent paralysis.

Children who are born with some type of paralysis can often go on to lead normal lives, making adjustments for any tasks they are unable to complete. They can grow up, get jobs and enjoy many of the same activities as their family and friends. The cost of care for babies who suffer from conditions that cause paralysis may be a primary concern, but there are often support groups and organizations that will help find necessary resources for the parents.

While birth paralysis is a serious condition for those who are affected and their families, it is not a hopeless condition. There are organizations and people who can help financially, legally and physically.