What is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia refers to a medical complication during labor and delivery in which a baby’s anterior shoulder gets stuck on a mother’s pubic bone.  As a result, the baby’s neck pulls back against the mother’s perineum and the baby’s cheeks puff out.  Because the infant is deprived of oxygen when shoulder dystocia occurs, the situation, if not resolved quickly, can lead to life-long complications, including brain damage and death.  Shoulder dystocia occurs in nearly 20,000 deliveries in the United States every year.

Of those infants who suffered from shoulder dystocia during deliver, 20 percent of them will have sustained some type of injury, either permanent or temporary.  The most common type of injury occurs to the infant’s brachial plexus, which are nerves in the baby’s neck that control the arms and hands.  When the upper brachial plexus is damaged, it can lead to Erb’s palsy.  When the lower brachial plexus is damaged, it can cause Klumpke palsy.  While many brachia plexus injuries are temporary and go away within three months, some result in life-long complications which will require physical therapy. 

In addition to brachia plexus damage, shoulder dystocia can lead to asphyxia, a condition in which a baby is deprived of oxygen.  Asphyxia can lead to brain damage, including cerebral palsy.  Shoulder dystocia may cause an infant’s clavicle or humeri bones to be fractured.  The baby may also suffer from cuts and lacerations due to being pushed up against the mother’s pubic bone.

There is no one way to predict if a baby will suffer from shoulder dystocia at birth.  There are, however, several risk factors that can contribute to the situation.  For instance, mothers who suffer from obesity, diabetes or preeclampsia during pregnancy have a greater risk of having a child who suffers from shoulder dystocia.  In addition, fetal weight or prolonged gestation may contribute to the condition.

When shoulder dystocia occurs, it is important for medical professionals to act quickly.  Doctors may perform special maneuvers to free the child’s stuck shoulder.  Using the McRobert’s maneuver, obstetricians sharply flex a baby’s legs upon the mother’s abdomen.  Doctors may also supply suprapubic pressure which requires placing pressure on a mother’s pubic bone and the baby’s shoulder.  These two maneuvers usually resolve 50-60 percent of shoulder dystocia cases.

How Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC Can Help If Your Child Suffered from Shoulder Dystocia at Birth

Shoulder dystocia can lead to Erb’s palsy, Klumpke palsy, as well as irreversible brain damage.  While many cases of shoulder dystocia can be resolved by medical professionals performing certain maneuvers, some doctors may fail to provide the necessary treatment for the condition.  If your child suffered from shoulder dystocia during delivery, our firm may be able to help.  We will thoroughly investigate your claim, including your child’s medical records.  If your child’s shoulder dystocia wasn’t treated properly, we will  recover compensation from those responsible. Contact Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC today.


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