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Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma

Last updated Sept. 11, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma is characterized by a loss of muscle control in the face, which results when a nerve in the lower part of the face (called the seventh cranial nerve), is injured during childbirth.


What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Seventh Cranial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma

What is Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma? (Definition/Background Information)

  • Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma is characterized by a loss of muscle control in the face, which results when a nerve in the lower part of the face (called the seventh cranial nerve), is injured during childbirth
  • Currently, the underlying cause of the condition is unknown. However, in a majority of the cases, the facial nerve palsy resolves on its own, without therapy; although, close clinical monitoring is initially necessary
  • The prognosis of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma is usually excellent with treatment

Who gets Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma? (Age and Sex Distribution)

  • Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma, as the names suggests, occurs in infants during childbirth
  • The condition may occur in children of all races, ethnic groups, and gender

What are the Risk Factors for Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma? (Predisposing Factors)

Common risk factors associated with Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma include:

  • Mother’s prior history of delivering large babies
  • Mother’s prior history of prolonged or delayed deliveries
  • Medications that induce labor, resulting in stronger labor contractions
  • Administration of epidural anesthesia during labor
  • Gestational diabetes, which results in birth of larger babies

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma? (Etiology)

  • The exact cause of ‘Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma’, during childbirth is unknown
  • The use of forceps in a delivery could result in the condition, as a side effect. However, this has not been proven
  • Nevertheless, it is important to note that not all deliveries in which forceps are used will result in the disorder. In fact, Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma is a rare complication of a forceps delivery

Clinical conditions that could result in an increased risk of trauma, during delivery include:

  • A prolonged and complicated delivery
  • Children, who are delivered feet first; breech delivery
  • Use of medications that induce labor, resulting in stronger contractions
  • Delivery of a large baby
  • Shoulder dystocia: Presence of shoulder dystocia in babies at birth, increases the chances of the condition

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma?

Facial nerve innervates (meaning ‘to supply with nerves’) the muscles of facial expression. Damage to the facial nerve will result in loss of muscular movements, resulting in abnormal facial expressions.

Signs and symptoms of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma may include:

  • Uneven lips while crying, uneven smile
  • Failure of the eyelid to close on that side of the face, where the nerve is damaged
  • Breastfeeding difficulties for the infant

How is Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma Diagnosed?

Diagnostic methods that a physician may use to help diagnose Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma include:

  • Physical examination: A thorough physical examination can usually help a prompt diagnosis of a Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma
  • However, in some cases, an injury involving the facial nerve may not be noticed until much later, by the infant’s parents or the healthcare provider

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma?

A severe complication caused by Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma includes the permanent paralysis of the facial nerve.

How is Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma Treated?

  • In a majority of the cases, Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma resolves on its own, without any therapy. However, close clinical monitoring of the condition is initially maintained
  • In cases of severe nerve damage to the facial nerve, permanent side effects may occur. In such a scenario, special treatment may be necessary

How can Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma be Prevented?

  • There are no methods to prevent Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma
  • However, the proper use of forceps and the proper management of risk factors, can decrease the incidence of the condition in newborns

What is the Prognosis of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • The long term prognosis of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma is usually excellent, for a majority of the infants
  • Physicians, usually recognize the occurrence of Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma, during the delivery process. In some cases, the physician or family members may not recognize an injury to the facial nerve, until a few months after childbirth
  • Some severe cases of facial nerve palsy may result in a permanent paralysis of the facial nerve

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Facial Nerve Palsy due to Birth Trauma:

The following DoveMed website link is a useful resource for additional information:

https://www.dovemed.com/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-related-disorders/

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?


References and Information Sources used for the Article:


Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:


Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 23, 2014
Last updated: Sept. 11, 2018