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Children's Health

Newborn Broken Arm

04/12/2010

Question:

Hi

My sister gave birth 15 days ago in the past few days the baby has a broken arm in 2 places and as such the child has been placed in foster care now i knowmy sister she would never harm her son and would like to know is there anything else that can cause this even the slightist thing as my sister is still sick from the birth ive been searching the internet and found a few things but i would prefer the help of a medical expert

Thank you

Answer:

I am certain that it is a most distressing experience for your sister and the whole family. The fact that the baby's arm was broken in two places greatly increases the likelihood that the fractures were the result of post-birth handling and also greatly decreases the likelihood that the injuries occurred while in the hospital and were missed.

Your sister may not have injured her baby. It may be that another person involved in the baby's care injured the child inadvertently or even deliberately, as impossible as that may seem to those of us who love babies. A baby's crying or constant care have been known to provoke abusive behavior by frustrated caregivers. In addition, maternal postpartum depression may be severe and leave a mother unable to control her feelings of frustration and anger. In some instances, this has led to the murder of an infant, not simply physical injury. Such mothers are not evil mothers, but rather very mentally distressed mothers unable to inhibit behaviors they would never direct toward an infant when they are well. 

A possible alternative explanation of the injury is that the baby is suffering from osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetically inherited disease in which the bones are fragile and easily broken. This can be checked for with blood tests and chromosomal testing. If this is the case, even normal handling may result in significant injury for those who are severely affected.

Clearly your sister is much in need of your support and that of all who love her. If she is the person who injured her child, she needs good mental health care. If she is not the person who injured her child, that person needs to be identified and turned over to the police for conviction and punishment. If it is the result of genetic birth defect, the family will certainly need much support as the members come to terms with a lifelong and serious health problem in a new baby. 

 

Most importantly, the defenseless baby needs to be in safe and loving care until return home is prudent. Whether or not your sister was guilty of injuring the baby, she will need everyone's help, encouragement, and support as she resumes parenting her baby after the stress of separation.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University