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Birth Injury Due to Shoulder Dystocia

What is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia, although rare, is a serious complication that occurs during childbirth. The term “dystocia” refers to a prolonged or difficult childbirth or labor. Shoulder dystocia is when the baby’s head has passed through the birth canal but the baby’s shoulder is stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. The pubic bone is located at the front o the pelvic structure.

During a normal delivery, once the head has emerged from the birth canal, the head and body usually turn sideways allowing the shoulders to pass by the pubic bone without difficulty. When shoulder dystocia occurs, the baby becomes lodged and is at risk of incurring a serious injury.

Immediate Intervention is Essential

When shoulder dystocia occurs, it is imperative that the doctor or midwife act immediately to avoid serious complications. If the baby cannot be delivered quickly and remains stuck for any length of time, the infant will not be able to get enough oxygen due to the compression of the umbilical cord. Even if the head is completely out, the lungs will be compressed, preventing the baby from attaining oxygen through respiration.

Shoulder dystocia is a medical emergency. The physician and others in attendance can try a number of maneuvers to free the baby including applying gentle pressure to the mother’s abdomen—freeing the baby’s shoulder, or helping the mother reposition her legs to widen the birth canal. However, if these methods fail, the medical team must be ready to perform an emergency C-section immediately to prevent life-threatening complications for the baby.

Risk Factors

Certain preexisting conditions may indicate a higher risk for shoulder dystocia including:

  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Maternal obesity
  • Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • A large baby (fetal macrosomia)
  • Shoulder dystocia in a previous birth
  • Forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery

Nevertheless, shoulder dystocia may occur in any pregnancy, and the attending doctor or midwife should be prepared to take emergency action to prevent severe birth injury. If the proper protocol is not followed, injury to the baby may include fractured humeri, fractured clavicles, birth asphyxia, and death.


Legal Help

If your child or another member of your family has suffered a birth injury due to the negligence or carelessness of a medical professional, count on the compassionate Chicago birth injury lawyers at Shea Law Group to help. Children who suffer birth injuries can require long term care that may put your family’s financial future in jeopardy. You have a right to compensation from those at fault.

The birth of a child should be a joyous experience. If medical incompetence has turned it into a nightmare for you and your family, we will work diligently to get you the settlement you deserve—and you will never incur any expenses unless we do. Call us at (773)-365-0040 to discuss your options.