Birth Trauma and Injury – Shoulder Dystocia


In what should be a most joyful moment in life there are still dangerous. The birth of a child can go horribly wrong, and injuries in childbirth can have temporary or lifelong consequences. While birth trauma cases are complicated, they are an option for those whose child has suffered due to negligence.

What is it?

Shoulder Dystocia is a condition that occurs when one or both of the baby’s shoulders get stuck during regular vaginal delivery. This injury often occurs when a baby is too large, a pelvis small, or the position of the baby is wrong. Shoulder Dystocia can also cause severe complications like nerve injury to the baby that can last a lifetime.

How serious is it?

This condition is considered an emergency during childbirth and it is rare. When it does occur though the complications are serious. The rate of shoulder dystocia varies from .6% of births to more than 10% of births depending mostly on the size of the baby. Those over 9 pounds are at the greatest risk.

Are there signs of shoulder dysocia?

No. There is no way to predict the condition as it has no symptoms. It usually is detected once the head is born but then it is pulled back into the perineum. This is called the ‘turtle sign’ and is a clear indication that the birth is not proceeding as it should.

What are the risk factors for shoulder dystocia?

  • Baby size – larger than 8 pounds 13 ounces
  • Incorrect baby position
  • The mother’s pelvis being too small
  • Incorrect mother birthing position

Diagnosis of shoulder dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is diagnosed by the obstetrician at birth and is dependent on these three factors:

  • The baby’s head was delivered but the shoulders were not
  • More than one minute passes between the birth of the head and the body
  • The baby requires medical intervention to deliver safely

Is there treatment for shoulder dystocia?

Yes. Treatment may include:

  • Preventative C-section if your baby's size is large
  • There will be help available to the doctor or midwife in the delivery room if shoulder dystocia is suspected.
  • An episiotomy may be considered
  • Alternative birthing positions may be suggested
  • Manual external or internal manipulation may be used

In extreme cases

  • The child’s clavicle may be broken to release the shoulders
  • The baby may be pushed back into the uterus to allow for a c-section
  • The mother’s pubic bones may be enlarged by cutting the cartilage

There are complications in shoulder dystocia cases:

For the mother these include:

  • Perineum tears
  • Very heavy post-partum bleeding
  • Fistula
  • Ruptures in the uterus
  • Separation of the pubic bones

For the baby these include:

  • Broken collarbones
  • Disorders of the face and eye
  • Compression of the umbilical cord can cause a lack of oxygen to the brain and result in further complications.

At one time these cases often ended in maternal and baby death but today there is no reason for that to occur.

Given the complications of the birthing process, there are many areas where negligence resulting in serious harm to the baby can occur. A birth trauma lawyer, along with the assistance of medical experts, can review the medical information and assess where an error occurred and further determine whether that error resulted in avoidable serious harm and lifelong impairment to your child.

If you have concerns about the birth of your child and its outcome, and you have concerns for your newborn child’s future, then don’t hesitate to contact our firm to assist you with an assessment of your family’s particular matter.

Contact us today to set up your free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. Don't face your situation alone 1.866.414.4878


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