Can Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries Increase Risk of Mental Illness?

Brachial plexus injuries are one of the most common birth injuries sustained during labor and delivery.  Now, researchers are exploring the longer term impact of a brachial plexus injury on the individual. They are seeking to address the question – “Can Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries Increase Risk of Mental Illness?”

Read on to learn more about the research, and what it could mean for you if your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury.  If you have questions about birth injuries and your legal rights, contact Birth Injury Guide to speak with one of our birth injury attorneys about your situation.

Can Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries Increase Risk of Mental Illness?

A brachial plexus injury is an injury to the nerves of the brachial plexus that may result in weakness, loss of sensation, and/or loss of movement of the shoulder, arm, or hand.  While many birth injuries, including brachial plexus injuries, leave little or no long term effects, Swedish researchers have found that children who have experienced a brachial plexus birth injury (BPBI) have a higher risk of developing mental health issues in their teenage years.

The research, published in PsychCentral, studied over 600,000 Swedish children.  Researchers found that children who suffered a BPBI used anti-depressants or were being treated for mental health issues more frequently than children without a BPBI.

Researchers discovered the following:

  • Of the 600,000 children studied, 1,600 had BPBI and were being treated for mental illness.
  • Children with BPBI who lived in low-income houses were more likely to develop mental illness than children in wealthier communities.
  • Teenage girls were more likely to be affected by mental illness following a BPBI than boys.
  • Overall, teenage girls with low socioeconomic status were more than twice as likely to develop mental illness than boys in higher socioeconomic situations.

Other studies have similarly shown a disproportion between boys and girls when it comes to the risk of developing mental illness, aside from BPBI.  There is also a link between socioeconomic status and the risk of developing mental health issues, according to some studies.

Why Are Brachial Plexus Birth Injuries and Mental Illness Linked?

Brachial plexus birth injuries most commonly affect only the nerves and flexibility in the child’s shoulder and arm.  However, tearing of the nerves can result in permanent damage, including lost range of motion, or a complete loss of use of the affected limb.  Children experiencing the difficulties of managing a permanent injury may be at a greater risk of developing mental health issues due to:

  • Ongoing treatment and therapy
  • Financial burdens for their families
  • Parental stress and mental health
  • Difficulties with psychosocial development

There are many factors that may contribute to why children with BPBI are more likely to experience mental health issues.  There are also a number of contributory factors, such as:

  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Lack of health insurance or care
  • Inadequate support for psychosocial development
  • Inability to manage emotions

Researchers are hopeful that studies like this one will highlight some of these factors and help healthcare providers make wise decisions when managing treatment both in the short- and long-term.  Researchers also hope that this information will help expectant parents make better informed decisions about how to manage labor and delivery, look for possible red flags, and be active participants in the decision-making process.

Highlighting the Importance of Long-Term Care after Birth Injuries

After a birth injury, of course, your first priority is getting immediate treatment for your child.  It is also important, however, to consider what longer term affects a birth injury could have on your family.  It is sometimes difficult to look past the physical element of a birth injury and consider long-term impacts, such as mental health.  It is, nonetheless, an important part of your child’s overall wellbeing.  As researchers noted:

A better understanding of the developmental environments of children affected by chronic handicap in early life is thus essential for preventing the spiral of decline in mental health for the child, moderating the suffering of affected children and their families“.

The prognosis for most children with BPBI is positive from a physical standpoint.  The severity of the injury and any comorbid conditions will have a tremendous impact on how treatment is managed, and what you can expect for your child in the months and years following the injury.  Now, thanks to research like that discussed above, parents can gain a better understanding of how to help children with BPBI in a more comprehensive manner.

Getting Support after a Brachial Plexus Injury

Like your child, the impact of a BPBI is unique.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing the aftermath of a birth injury.  If you need support or guidance about birth injuries, contact Birth Injury Guide for an individualized case review.  Our birth injury attorneys understand the uniqueness of each case, and takes a personalized approach to helping your family.

Whether you have questions about birth injuries, need help finding financial support or are considering filing a medical malpractice claim, Birth Injury Guide is here for you.  To get started, call us at 1-877-415-6603 for a free case review, or fill out our online form.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.