A brachial plexus injury is an injury to the nerves in the neck of the baby. This injury can occur when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck on the mother’s pubic bone during the course of delivery.
This is often referred to as shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is an obstetrical emergency. The baby is at a position where his or her umbilical cord is often pinched closed due to where the baby is in the birth canal. The obstetrician must deliver the baby within 5 or 6 minutes of the shoulder dystocia occurring or else risk the possibility of neurological injury due to the interruption of the blood flow through the umbilical cord to the baby.
A brachial plexus injury can occur when the obstetrician applies downward traction on the fetal head in an attempt to dislodge the shoulder. This downward traction can stretch the nerves in the baby’s neck and, in extreme examples, can result in avulsion of the nerve, meaning that the nerves are in essence pulled away from the cervical spine.
Brachial plexus injuries are often temporary but, in some unfortunate situations, are permanent. This injury to the brachial plexus nerves will have a direct effect on the functioning of the arm on the side where the nerve injury occurred.