Shoulder dystocia is a childbirth occurrence in which the head of the baby comes out naturally, but the baby’s shoulders become lodged behind the mother’s pelvis. This can occur as a result of the size of the baby shoulders and body, the size of the mother’s pelvis, or the angle at which the baby proceeds through the birth canal. A medical emergency response is required when this event occurs due to the fact that the umbilical cord can compress in this position and put the baby’s life at risk.
In response to shoulder dystocia, medical personnel can employee a number of different obstetrical maneuvers and procedures, including emergency cesarean section (C-section). If the OB/GYN team improperly responds to this event and it results in a birth injury, the hospital or medical personnel may be subject to a medical malpractice claim.
What injuries can shoulder dystocia cause?
Improperly handling a shoulder dissociate event can result in permanent injury to the mother and baby. The potential injuries to the baby can include facial damage, broken bones and 4 additional major birth injuries that can impose long term disabilities. These are:
- Klumpke’s palsy. This condition occurs in the lower spinal cord nerves, causing paralysis in the baby’s lower arms and hands.
- Erb’s palsy. This condition involves injury to the upper nerves connected to the spinal cord which can leave the baby with a partially paralyzed arm.
- Cerebral palsy. This condition is a neurological disability that inhibits the ability of the brain to properly control muscle and bodily movements. It can occur when shoulder dystocia is mismanaged, resulting in a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain.
- Developmental delays. A child may suffer delays in various types of development due to significant loss of oxygen during the delivery process.
Malpractice claims stemming from shoulder dystocia
Doctors and hospitals must pay attention and act appropriately in order to successfully resolve a shoulder dystocia condition. Time pressures are involved due to the infant’s risk of death. If the doctor is shown to not have met the medical standard of care required, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be the result. Doctors can face two general types of malpractice claims associated with shoulder dystocia cases.
Excessive Force: The doctor may have used excessive force or traction while attempting to extricate the baby from the position of shoulder dystocia. There are particular types of birth injuries often associated with an excessive force claim. Erb’s Palsy, for example, often results from excessive traction or force applied to the baby’s head during delivery.
Failure to anticipate shoulder dystocia: The doctor should have reasonably anticipated that shoulder dystocia would occur due to the presence of particular risk factors. These factors can include size of the mother or baby, prior history, and gestational diabetes. The allegation may claim that necessary and delivery was advisable or at least should have been offered as an option in order to avoid the likely possibility of shoulder dystocia.
Learn more about birth injuries
If your baby has suffered a birth injury as a result of shoulder dystocia, our Maryland birth injury attorneys at Plaxen & Adler, P.A. understand the personal and financial devastation you may be experiencing as a result. We are here to stand as your strong advocates to help you recover the compensation you and your family deserve at this time. To schedule a free consultation about your situation, give us a call today at 410.988.4449 or send us a request through our contact form.