Friday, October 21, 2011

International Brachial Plexus Injury Awareness Week

This week is... almost over. But it's not yet, and it is International Brachial Plexus Injury Awareness Week.

What is a Brachial Plexus Injury?
From the UBPN...
The term Brachial Plexus Injury (BPI) refers to an injury to the complex set of nerves that control the muscles of the fingers, hand, arm, and shoulder. The nerves originate at the spinal cord and are formed in 3 trunks located in the upper shoulder: the upper trunk from spinal cord segments C5 and C6, the middle trunk from segment C7, and the lower trunk from segments C8 and T1. Other Terms for BPI.

Terms used to describe a BPI include Erb's Palsy (an upper trunk injury), Klumpke's Palsy (a lower trunk injury), Brachial Plexus Palsy, Erb-Duchenne Palsy, Horner's Syndrome (when facial nerves are also affected), and "Burners" or "Stingers" (usually associated with sports-related brachial plexus injuries). Torticollis is another term sometimes used in conjunction with brachial plexus injuries.
 While Brachial Plexus Injuries can occur from all sorts of traumas, one main cause is birth trauma often associated with shoulder dystocia.

How can it be prevented?
It can be prevented? Oh yes, it can be prevented. Inform yourself about how to avoid a shoulder dystocia and be sure your care provider is confident in how to handle it properly without harm to the baby.

The UBPN website flashes these tidbits on their front page....  
2-3 Injuries for every 1,000 births: More occurences than Down's Syndrome

Not your fault mom! Nearly all obstetrical cases are preventable with proper delivery techniques!

Do NOT give birth on your back: Laboring in the sitting, squatting or standing position and squatting to give birth is the best method to prevent shoulder dystocia.

LEAVE the TOOLS in the GARAGE!  Forceps and suction assisted deliveries may increase injury incidences and/or the severity of injuries.

Birth is NATURAL, not a medical procedure.
 Why does it matter to me?
This matters to me, because I am sick of doctors not being educated on things that matter. This matters to me, because I'm sick of mothers being told their bodies don't know what to do and being attacked with interventions that are outright dangerous when not used judiciously. This matters to me, because I'm angry the medical community is not being held responsible for the results of their decisions based on convenience.

It matters to me because of this little boy.

 That's my nephew. He suffered a brachial plexus injury when his birth was mismanaged. His mother was forced to push on her back in a position despite her desire otherwise. When his anterior shoulder did get stuck, instead of using a variety of other techniques (including but not limited to the Gaskin manuever which involves flipping the mother onto her hands and knees helping open the pelvic opening and shift the baby's position)  that are less invasive and very effective, the doctor cut an episiotomy and pulled on his head and neck damaging the nerves until he came out.

When he was born he couldn't move his arm at all. He has been blessed with a great network of support and a less severe injury than many. With countless therapy and specialist visits in the 3 years of his life, faithful daily exercises, and the mom that made all that happen, he has progressed wonderfully. But his journey has not been easy and is not over.

The simple fact is these injuries can be prevented with educated doctors and midwives, mother friendly birthing environments that support the mother's ability to give birth, and educated parents who demand their care providers wise up.

So please spread the word, learn about brachial plexus injuries, and help prevent these outcomes.

Injury Awareness Week Starts
LETTER: Learn about brachial plexus injury this week
United Brachial Plexus Network, Inc.
BPI is a preventable injury to babies


  1. Thank you for writing this. Education about BPI is so important so other babies, children and families do not suffer. It is a disgrace that so many have unnecessarily.

  2. Thank you so much for this... My 9 month old son has OBPI. His outcome is much better than most, but it is still disheartening that all of the pain/limitations/frustrations he endures could have been prevented. I have started a blog and I hope we can raise awareness and help prevent this from happening to other babies.


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