Shoulder Dystocia Can Cause Serious Birh Injuries to Newborns

Shoulder dystocia refers to the condition that occurs when a baby‘s head is delivered but the shoulders get stuck inside the mother‘s body. The word “dystocia” actually means slow or difficult labor or delivery. In most cases, once the baby‘s head is delivered the rest of the baby‘s body follows easily.

In some instances where the baby‘s shoulders and chest are larger than the baby‘s head, the shoulder may become lodged behind the mother‘s pelvic bone. It is estimated that shoulder dystocia occurs in anywhere from 1 to 8 out of every 1000 births.

In most cases where shoulder dystocia is handled appropriately by the healthcare providers the baby and the mother do not sustain any permanent birth injuries. However, if the healthcare providers responsible for the labor and delivery of the baby do not react quickly and appropriately shoulder dystocia can lead to serious and permanent injury to the baby.

These injuries include 1) damage to the sensitive nerves in the baby‘s neck, commonly referred to as a brachial plexus injury, 2) low oxygen levels leading to brain damage and cerebral palsy, and 3) bone fractures caused by the force used to dislodge the shoulder.

While there are risk factors for shoulder dystocia, healthcare providers generally cannot predict or prevent shoulder dystocia from happening.

Some risk factors include the following:

1. A very large baby.
2. A mother with diabetes.
3. Being pregnant with more than one baby.
4. Obesity in the mother.
5. Delivery of the baby after the baby‘s due date.
6. A previous history of delivering a baby with shoulder dystocia.

Yet it should be remembered that shoulder dystocia can occur when there are no risk factors at all.

Doctors can take steps to prevent injuries caused by shoulder dystocia. This often includes repositioning the mother and/or the baby during delivery to allow the baby to pass while using gentle pushing and pulling techniques. More serious procedures may include breaking the mother‘s pelvic bone or the baby‘s collar bone or performing an emergency cesarean section.

Medical Negligence
If the doctors and/or nurses responsible for the delivery of the baby fail to recognize signs of shoulder dystocia or fail to respond in an appropriate manner they may constitute medical negligence. When the healthcare providers are found to be negligent they can be held responsible for any injuries caused to the baby as a result of their unreasonable conduct.

Medical malpractice claims are quite complex. It is to contact an experienced personal injury attorney to conduct a careful review of the medical records and determine whether the baby‘s injuries were caused by the negligence of the medical providers.

There are numerous unique deadlines and other requirements that must be considered. So it important to make these determinations as soon as possible if you suspect medical negligence. Delay can result in a missed deadline which may bar your claim completely.


Related Reading:
High Burden of Proof in New Mexico Birth Injury Lawsuits
Cesarean Sections: An Essential Tool in Prevention of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral Palsy Birth Injuries: Devastating, Costly and Sometimes Avoidable!

Collins & Collins, P.C.
Albuquerque Attorneys

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