My baby has a flaccid arm

Postnatal, Your questions

I gave birth 3 weeks ago, and find that my baby has one arm that is more flaccid than the other. When I raise it, it quickly falls down and is much softer than the other. Should I be worried, Marie? Thanks in advance, Anne-Sophie

Anne-Sophie, excellent observation, and you must talk to the doctor monitoring your baby as quickly as possible. After childbirth, some babies will have what is called perinatal brachial plexus palsy, and this situation needs to be followed closely. You may be referred to a neurologist or a physiotherapist for observation and recovery of their muscle strength.

Perinatal brachial plexus palsy is a possible complication after childbirth. When the brachial plexus is severely stretched, it’s often difficult to remove the shoulders during delivery. This leads to damage to the arm nerve.

Palsy can be partial, affecting the arm, elbow and shoulder. In 20-30% of cases, it can be total, affecting the hand.

This type of palsy is usually unilateral. The diagnosis is often precise after delivery, as the newborn has an arm that doesn’t move while the other does without a problem. In about 1% of cases, the palsy occurs in both arms. The lack of tone in your baby’s arm may be mild and went unnoticed, but you have to have it checked anyway.

The doctor will attempt to prevent other complications and will do different additional tests to evaluate the state of the nerves and ensure adequate follow-up.

Self-healing is possible and depends on the type of damage, but we don’t know how long it will take precisely.

Anne-Sophie, I hope this helps, and prepare your observations and questions for your doctor for your next appointment.

Talk soon,


The Baby Expert

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