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brachial plexus injury, phenomenology, shoulder dystocia



  1. Beck, Cheryl Tatano


Background: Shoulder dystocia is considered the obstetric nightmare. A potentially devastating complication of shoulder dystocia to the infant is obstetric brachial plexus injury (OBPI). Between 20% and 30% of infants with OBPI experience residual functional deficits.


Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate mothers' experiences caring for their children who have an OBPI.


Methods: Colaizzi's phenomenology was the method used to examine the phenomenon of mothers' caring for their children with an OBPI. A recruitment notice was placed on the Web site of the United Brachial Plexus Network. Twenty-three mothers comprised the convenience sample. Eleven mothers participated in the study over the Internet, and 12 mothers were interviewed in person. Each mother was asked to describe in as much detail as she wished her experiences caring for her child with an OBPI.


Results: Six themes emerged to describe mothers' experiences caring for their children with an OBPI: (a) In an Instant: Dreams Shattered; (b) The Arm: No Escaping the Reality; (c) Tormented: Agonizing Worries and Questions; (d) Therapy and Surgeries: Consuming Mothers' Lives; (e) Anger: Simmering Pot Inside; and (f) So Much to Bear: Enduring Heartbreak.


Conclusions: The results of this phenomenological study helped to make visible the daily struggle and enduring heartache of mothers who care for their children with OBPI.