There is a lot going on during childbirth. While the mother focuses on delivering a newborn, it’s up to the doctor and a team of medical professionals to safeguard their well-being. That includes responding to new information as it is revealed.

Among the possible complications that can occur during childbirth is nerve injuries. Here is an overview of four spots on a newborn that might suffer nerve damage during the birth.

The face

Newborns sometimes suffer a facial nerve injury during childbirth. This can happen when something – such as the mother’s pelvis or use of forceps – puts pressure on the face. A facial nerve injury can often cause the baby’s face to look lopsided while crying.

This type of nerve injury usually clears up within a few months, as the muscle weakness subsides. Occasionally, however, there might be something else going on that needs investigating.

The brachial plexus

The brachial plexus is a cluster of nerves located between a baby’s neck and shoulders. If their arm is awkwardly stretched or pulled during birth, it could result in weakness in the shoulder or elbow (known as Erb palsy), or in the hand or wrist (Klumpke palsy). For treatment, the goal is usually to make sure the injured nerve can heal by limiting the affected area’s use.

Severe cases may require physical or occupational therapy. If there is still no improvement after that, your doctor may suggest exploring surgery.

The phrenic nerve

The phrenic nerve is associated with the diaphragm, a muscle that enables breathing. If damaged, it can become paralyzed on one side – leading to a newborn having trouble taking breaths. In certain situations, the infant might need medical help while the nerve recovers. Fortunately, this type of injury often heals within about a month.

The spinal cord

A spinal cord injury due to overstretching during childbirth is rare, but it can occur. Spinal cord nerve injuries are generally irreversible, meaning they can be quite serious, resulting in paralysis below the spot of the injury.