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The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that originates in the cervical spine. Injury to these nerves can result in loss of feeling in the arm, muscle atrophy, or permanent disability. Brachial plexus injuries in infants are often traced back to a physician’s failure to properly respond and treat the mother and fetus when the fetus is large, there is advanced maternal age or maternal obesity, or the physician has used vacuum extraction or high forceps delivery. These injuries often occur in mothers who are diabetic or develop gestational diabetes and the physician fails to properly assess the size and weight of the baby before delivery.
Erb's palsy almost always results from the negligent handling of shoulder dystocia during labor and delivery and results in nerve damage that may mean that a baby will never have normal use of his or her arm.
An oversized baby, an obese mother, or complications related to the position of the fetus and the mother during labor and delivery may cause a baby's shoulder to get stuck behind the mother's pubic bone. The resulting shoulder dystocia may mean that a child will never have normal use of his or her arm because of the nerve damage.