Infant Bell’s palsy is a type of facial paralysis that affects newborns. From the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), this palsy affects roughly 6 out of every 100,000 children between the ages of 1 to 15. It occurs as a result of an injury to specific cranial nerves that supply sensation and muscle control to the face. Bell’s palsy generally only affects one side of the baby’s face and may be obvious at birth because of the asymmetry of the newborn’s facial movements.
Bell’s palsy can make it difficult to blink and latch to feed. If the facial paralysis persists, an older child may struggle to make certain facial expressions and speak clearly.
Most cases of Bell’s palsy go away on their own, resolving over the first few months of the child’s life. If the condition does not improve, your doctor should recommend a specialist who can confirm that it is Bell’s palsy and not another type of facial paralysis and also determine the best treatment plan for your baby.
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Causes of Bell’s Palsy in Infants
Because of the appearance of Bell’s palsy, parents often worry their newborn suffered a stroke during labor or delivery, or that they may suffer lasting brain damage because of other birth injuries. This could include cerebral palsy or other concerns.
Thankfully, Bell’s palsy generally has a much better outcome than an ischemic stroke or brain hemorrhage, although all are possible birth injuries. Bell’s palsy and other types of facial nerve injuries can occur as a result of a traumatic or complicated birth, just as the more serious conditions can.
Maternal infections may also pass Bell’s palsy to newborns if left untreated during pregnancy and delivery. These infections could include the herpes virus or upper respiratory infections such as the flu.
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Symptoms and Treatments for Bell’s Palsy
The primary symptom of infant bell’s palsy is a noticeable drooping that affects one side of the baby’s face. This drooping is generally observable immediately at birth, especially when the baby cries or moves their mouth because their face will not move symmetrically.
Other signs include:
- Asymmetrical facial expressions and movement
- Blinking on the unaffected eye
- Excessive drooling because they cannot completely close the mouth
- Difficulty latching to feed
In most cases, the child’s muscle control will return slowly, and they will be fully recovered by two or three months of age. However, Bell’s palsy can also cause permanent nerve damage in some children. This damage leads to ongoing muscle weakness, and the child’s face may not be completely symmetrical, although most regain some movement.
Many babies who do not receive a prompt diagnosis may suffer eye damage in the affected eye because they cannot blink. This condition could lead to vision loss, so it is imperative to discuss your concerns with your doctor right away if you believe your baby may have facial paralysis of any type.
When children have lasting damage and do not completely recover movement, non-surgical treatments may help. These treatments may include therapy, injections, or medications. Your child may also need occupational and speech therapy to ensure they feed, speak, and move their mouth properly as they grow up. Rarely, surgery may be necessary.
Pursuing Compensation to Pay for Your Child’s Care and Treatment
You may be able to pursue compensation and hold the doctor accountable for failing to prevent your child’s birth injury or failing to diagnose it quickly. Facial nerve palsy is often preventable by carefully monitoring the mother and baby during delivery and opting for other options if a vaginal delivery may put too much pressure on the baby.
To learn if you qualify to take legal action in a birth injury medical malpractice case, speak with a birth injury lawyer who handles cases in your state. Each state has its own rules and deadlines, so the best way to find out your options is to schedule a free consultation.
Most attorneys will pursue birth injury damages based on a contingency fee, so your family will not need to pay anything up front. They will build your case and file a comprehensive claim for financial recovery. Navigating the legal system for your case may require them to:
- Determine liability
- Gather medical records
- Work with medical experts to prove your child’s case
- Meet the state’s timeline
- Negotiate a settlement
- Represent your family in court, if necessary
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Call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today about your case. You can get a free case review and learn more about your rights. We can help you understand your case and the steps you may be able to take to seek compensation.
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