The Painful Reality for Mothers of Children With Obstetric Brachial Plexus Injury


One complication that some newborn kids experience is OBPI (obstetric brachial plexus injury). The complication is termed a disorder of the shoulder, and an injury causes damage to the nerve plexus during birth. While many factors may cause such a traction injury, the resultant condition (OBPI) has devastating effects on the mothers who offer parental care to these kids. To understand mothers’ experiences while caring for children with such conditions, Beck undertook the study titled “The Arm”. The study embraced a unique methodology in data collection as well as in the analysis. The method of Colaizzi’s phenomenology was used to examine the experience, where data was collected through physical means through face-to-face interviews and an online platform. The data collection process through the two tools took about two years and two months and attracted the willful participation of twenty-three women. Among the sample population, eleven women participated through the internet, while twelve participated through personal interviews. The study established six thematic concerns in answering the lead questions that explained the mothers’ feelings. These themes were dreams shattered, no escape from reality, agony, torment consumption of the mothers’ lives, anger, and heartbreak. The study succeeded in establishing an understanding of the painful experiences that mothers of infants suffering from the condition (OBPI) endure on a daily basis.

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Although often disregarded, some instances of the parenting process expose mothers to great suffering and psychological torture. Such an instance occurs when nurturing and tending to a newborn who suffers from the OBPI condition. According to such research as the one conducted by Beck, many mothers attending to such cases experience very traumatizing moments, but little or no intervention at all comes their way. Therefore, this study was mainly aimed at investigating the feelings of such mothers as they attend to children suffering from OBPI. A general qualitative research methodology was embraced, with the mothers’ description being relied on analysis and conclusions being fronted. The results were grouped into various themes as they were explanatory of the feelings and experiences of the parents.

The following question guided the research paper: what is the experience of mothers caring for their children with OBPIs (Beck, 2009)?

P– Mothers of Children with OBPI

I– Infants with shoulder dystocia

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O– Parental Experiences of OBPI

T-Two years and two months


The primary target of the study was mothers who take care of children suffering from shoulder injuries, otherwise called OBPI (obstetric brachial plexus injury). The nature of the study was more abstract, and as such, reaching target populations could not rely on only one mechanism. The study, therefore, embraced the direct interview method as well as an online survey while collecting data from the target population. Although the target population was not defined by age and other social factors, the study was particularly investigating those mothers caring for their children who exhibited the condition of OBPI. Therefore, the use of the internet allowed the participation of all such women from nearly all over the world. All participants consented to participate through writing to control cases of biased information and coerced participation. The survey also took a considerable amount of time, which span about 26 months, because it was necessary to ensure that the right participants were reached. Besides, the prolonged time allowed mothers interested in participating to contact the researcher directly through email for more correspondence. A camp was organized in Seattle where participants met for the oral interviews. Besides giving out their own information for the study, the participants interacted with one another and received some training in line with the topic. Hence, this served to enlighten the mothers and assist them in coping with such sufferings as they recorded.

The participating mothers had their ages distributed between 25 and 47 years and had the children vary in age from three months to ten years. Among the women, 19 were married, three were divorced, and one was a single mother. Eighteen of the women were Caucasian, while the rest represented different races. One woman was black, one was Asian, and one was Hispanic, while two never gave their ethnicity, thereby summing up the sample of twenty-three mothers. The sample varied in education, with two mothers holding doctoral degrees, four holders of master’s degrees, seven had bachelors, and three had associate degrees. Moreover, three others had a partial college education, and two had high school diplomas, while the remaining two failed to record their own education status.

Infants with Shoulder Dystocia

The children who developed the condition of OBPI were the primary target of the study since their mothers were the survey respondents. The suffering of these kids extended to their mothers, a situation that caused much psychological and mental pain. The children represented in the study varied in age between three months and ten years.

Control or Comparison

Therefore, the study lacked a control group as the research would not embrace a comparative study. Often, investigative studies, like the current one, are comprised of a control group that have different attributes but is related to the characteristics that are considered. For instance, if this study was to have a control group, then the mothers who have never experienced the pains of caring for children with OBPI would be used for comparing experiences.


The study obtained results in the form of the experiences of the sampled mothers. By embracing a qualitative study approach, the experiences of mothers caring for children suffering from shoulder dystocia were analyzed. The interviews were structured in a way where personal experiences were recorded in statements, which would then be grouped and generalized. In fact, six themes emerged from the experiences, including dreams shattered, painful reality, tormented, anger, destruction of mothers’ lives, and much to bear.

The interviews collected many statements explaining the mothers’ feelings, and they were organized into six themes. The sad feeling informed the first theme of shattered dreams that not all mothers expected in the form of healthy kids would be realized. Typical statements recorded were that the mothers felt like they had lost some part of their living immediately after they gave birth to the children with the condition. Although the injuries were minimized through therapeutic means, the mothers felt the pain all through. The reality of what was lost and the truth that the children would live with such a scar was hard to come to terms with; hence, the second theme. The theme of tormenting came up with the constant questions that the mothers kept asking themselves, especially on whether anything could be done to reverse or correct the situation and restore normalcy to the kids.

The recommended therapies took the better parts of the lives of the mothers; hence, the theme of consumption of mothers’ lives. When the mothers are informed that their kids suffered such an injury, many of them experience anger. Such anger resulted from how they were blamed for directly or indirectly causing the condition; however, the man learned to live with it. Therefore, the theme was adequately supported through the information collected. Finally, the mothers had to endure the hard reality that their children were not as usual as any mother would dream of her kid. Such a feeling, therefore, brought about the theme of hard reality to endure. The study was useful in analyzing critical information that explained such feelings as the mothers of kids with the condition felt, which was grouped into six themes.


The study took a considerably long time because data collection took about twenty-six months (two years and two months). Nevertheless, the time was sufficient to collect data from diversified backgrounds.


Therefore, this article presents a structured qualitative study on the theme of mothers’ suffering caused by OBPI conditions in newborn children. Method of Colaizzi’s phenomenology was used to examine the experience where data was collected through physical means by the use of physical interviews and online. In fact, 23 women participated in the study, representing diversity in ethnic backgrounds, age distribution, and educational background. The study successfully established six themes to explain the mothers’ feelings. The themes were dreams shattered, no escape to reality, agony, torment consumption of the mothers’ lives, anger, and heartbreak. Nevertheless, one would criticize the study on the fact that most of the respondents were educated white mothers; hence lacking representativeness. Therefore, this review recommends a future study with equal representation of respondents in ethnicity, educational background, and social-economic status to avoid biased results. However, this study is useful for informing suffering mothers that the condition is common and could be managed through counseling therapy. Besides, women should be more informed and prepared as they go for delivery services to avoid any risk that could lead to the development of the OBPI.



Beck C. T. (2009). The Arm: There Is No Escaping the Reality for Mothers of Children With Obstetric Brachial Plexus Injuries. Nursing research, 58(4): 237-245

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