Erb palsy happens when a baby's neck is stretched during labor and delivery. This can result in damage to the upper nerves of the neck and shoulder. The nerve damage causes muscles in the baby’s arm to be weak.
Stretching may be caused by:
A long, difficult delivery
Delivery of a large baby
—when the baby's shoulder gets caught above the mother's pubic bone during delivery
Breech delivery—a baby that is born bottom first instead of head first
Things that may raise the risk of delivering a baby with Erb palsy are:
Abzug JM, Kozin SH. Evaluation and Management of Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy. Orthop Clin North Am. 2014 Apr;45(2):225-232.
Brachial plexopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/brachial-plexus-birth-palsy. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Erb’s palsy. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/doctor/erbs-palsy-pro. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Erb's palsy (brachial plexus birth injury). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00077. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 1/26/2021
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