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Most Common Birth Injuries


Updated April 22, 2014

pavlik harness hip dysplasia

A baby wearing a Pavlik harness

Photo © Robin Elise Weiss, LCCE

Birth Injuries:

Birth injuries are not uncommon injuries. Because the child is being delivered through a narrow vaginal canal, injuries can occur from the birth process. Newborns with large weight and advanced gestational age are most prone to these injuries. Other conditions associated with birth injuries include underlying medical problems such as osteogenesis imprefecta or arthrogryposis.

Clavicle Fractures:

Clavicle fractures are the most frequently encountered birth injury. The clavicle, also called the collarbone, connects the chest to the shoulder. The usual symptom is pain over the fracture site, as seldom do the injuries cause a noticeable deformity. Simple treatments, usually just strapping the arm to the chest, will allow these injuries to heal. Treatment is usually only necessary for a few weeks, as the bone heals quickly in young babies.

Brachial Plexus Injuries (Erb's Palsy):

The brachial plexus is the group of nerves that travel from the neck down the arm. It's located just underneath the clavicle (collarbone) and can be injured during childbirth. The brachial plexus is stretched when the head is pulled in one direction and the arm in the opposite. Usually this injury causes weakness seen in one arm. Treatment is to let the nerves to heal over time, most often this leads to complete recovery. If nerve injury is still evident after 3 to 6 months, surgery may be recommended.

Femur Fractures:

Femur fractures (broken thigh bone) occur as the leg is awkwardly twisted during delivery. These are rare injuries that are much less common than clavicle fractures. The usual symptom is pain when the child is moved or diaper is changed. The treatment of a femur fracture in a newborn is to use a Pavlik harness. Usually, a Pavlik harness is worn for about four weeks.


Staheli LT, "Practice of Pediatric Orthopedics" Lippincott Williams & Wilkins © 2001. Page 218.

"Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Injury)" American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. October 2007.

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