An injury that occurs to the seventh cranial nerve may cause facial paralysis in newborns. The condition is known as Bell’s palsy. It can occur before or during birth, but symptoms may not appear until a few days after the delivery.
There are risk factors that have been associated with the prevalence of facial paralysis in newborns. It is your doctor’s duty of care to identify such risk factors during pregnancy that could cause complications during birth or labor, which in turn could result in serious birth injuries.
Medical staff should be on alert for signs or symptoms that may signify a problem and be prepared with a management plan that may avoid the potential risk of birth trauma. Failure to do so could result in a permanent birth injury due to medical negligence, which can be grounds for a malpractice lawsuit.
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When a Medical Injury Causes Facial Paralysis in Newborns
In order to understand how Bell’s palsy happens, you should know where the cranial nerve is located, which is right below the ear. This makes it especially vulnerable to an injury during a forceps delivery. If your doctor opts to use this method of delivery, they should use caution when clamping down and pulling your baby out. There is a proper protocol on this maneuver, and a standard duty of care should be practiced.
Another way the facial nerve can experience damage is when it is pressed against the mother’s body. This can typically occur when your baby is positioned oddly during your pregnancy or if your baby is having a hard time pushing through the birthing canal. Your baby’s head could press up against your pelvic bone. This can put pressure on the facial nerve and damage it.
It is important to know that in either one of these cases, measures may be available to a doctor to prevent facial paralysis. Proper use of forceps delivery and safer alternative methods may avoid a preventable case of facial paralysis.
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Complications of Infant Facial Paralysis
The complications associated with facial paralysis in newborns is dependent on how severe the nerve damage is. Many are low-grade cases and are often recoverable. In fact, 85% of Bell’s palsy cases start to get better in less than a month, as reported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Full recovery has been documented in six months in many cases.
However, severe cases of Bell’s palsy can be harder to recover from and may never fully heal at all. Serious complications may come with permanent facial paralysis that can impact a child’s quality of life. Treatment and therapy to help fix or live with the problem can be costly too.
Complications arising from facial paralysis may include:
- Having a hard time closing affected eye
- Trouble speaking
- Difficulty with taste
- Tearing in the eye
- Uncontrollable drooling
- Facial pain
- Noise sensitivity to the affected ear
- Facial distortion
These complications cannot only wreak havoc on your child’s quality of life but also be harmful to their health.
Treatment for Facial Paralysis in Newborns
Your doctor may recommend physical therapy exercises to treat your child’s facial paralysis. During this period, it is important you take steps that can help manage the symptoms your child is facing, especially if they are showing more extreme signs, such as an inability to close their eye. In this case, your doctor may recommend that you administer artificial tears or have your baby wear an eyepatch to avoid particles floating in the eye and possibly causing infection.
If permanent facial paralysis is the ultimate outcome, surgery may be an option for treatment. Medication may help control or relieve some symptoms. Your child may also need ongoing speech therapy and physical therapy to help activate the weakened muscles in the face. Your doctor can provide you with more treatment or management plans for Bell’s palsy and discuss the pros and cons of your options.
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When a Birth Injury Causes Facial Paralysis
If your baby is suffering from facial paralysis, and you discover that it was caused by an injury during birth, you may have the right to sue. A medical malpractice lawsuit may allow your family to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
The Birth Injury Lawyers Group may be able to help you build and pursue compensation in settlement negotiations or on trial. Our lawyers represent clients nationwide. Get a free case review with a representative of the Birth Injury Lawyers Group by calling (800) 222-9529 today.