What should I do if I think shoulder dystocia harmed my baby or me?
Healthcare providers may have missed signs or diagnoses, mismanaged a high-risk pregnancy, miscommunicated, failed to take the appropriate precautions, failed to deliver adequate care, or not responded with enough speed or expertise in an emergency to prevent injury. If so, that falls into the category of medical malpractice or medical negligence and you can hold them accountable.
Our legal team regularly handles complicated cases like shoulder dystocia lawsuits. We can help you understand the causes of your baby’s injuries and find the experts and specialists to support your claim, as well as determine the future impacts to your family and your baby’s lifetime care and development.
Even if it was unintentional, if a healthcare provider harmed your baby, you may have a right to receive compensation for your medical expenses, follow-on treatment or surgical expenses, adaptive learning, physical and emotional support, and much more.
What is shoulder dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is a type of obstructed labor. It’s a delivery complication where the baby gets stuck in the birth canal, causing potential risk or injury to both mother and child.
What causes shoulder dystocia or how does it occur?
It occurs when a baby’s shoulders lodge in the mother’s pelvis, keeping the baby stuck mid-delivery.
It can be caused by a larger-than-normal baby who is simply too large for the birth canal, or when the baby is positioned incorrectly for delivery.
What are the signs or symptoms?
There are risk factors that can contribute to the likelihood of shoulder dystocia, but it’s not something that healthcare providers can always anticipate. It’s a delivery complication, rather than a pre-existing condition, and it doesn’t always result in an injury or permanent damage. Frequently, it’s noticed only after the head has emerged, but the baby’s shoulders remain inside the mother’s body.
Some risk factors that might increase the chances of shoulder dystocia are:
- A very large baby
- A multiple birth
- Late labor or delivery
- Induced labor
- Epidural use
- Maternal diabetes
- Maternal obesity
However, shoulder dystocia can occur when the mother has no risk factors.
Are there different forms of shoulder dystocia?
In some cases the baby’s head emerges, but the shoulders lodge; in others the baby arrives feet-first, but the shoulders catch.
Is the condition treatable?
Healthcare providers who are attentively monitoring the birth, typically attempt to rotate or reposition the baby to release the shoulder, so that it can deliver safely and without injuries. They may use forceps or extractors, however if that doesn’t work, or the baby is too large or showing signs of distress, a C-section may be performed.
Further injuries can happen if the healthcare provider uses force or twists the baby’s head while the shoulder remains tightly lodged, causing injuries to the brachial plexus nerves. (See also Brachial Plexus Injuries.)
If there is an injury after shoulder dystocia occurs, massage, physical therapy, or surgery may be required based on the severity of the injury.
What are the results or long-term impacts of this condition?
With proper provider response to this obstetric emergency, most babies can still be born safely after dystocia, and frequently the mother and the baby have no permanent damage.
For the baby, dystocia-related injuries may cause:
- Temporary or permanent injury to the nerves of the shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, hand and/or fingers, which in turn may cause post-delivery symptoms like:
- Pain, shaking, or minor paralysis in the affected limb. (See also Erb’s Palsy.)
- A claw-like appearance to the hand.
- Clavical fracture or other broken bones.
- Facial injury.
- Oxygen deprivation, which in rare severe cases could cause brain injury or even death.
For the mother, dystocia-related injuries may cause:
- Tearing of the uterus, vagina, or cervix.
- Post-delivery heavy bleeding.