Shoulder dystocia is a rare type of obstructed labor that can cause intense trauma for the mother and baby during delivery. When the baby is too large for the birth canal, his or her shoulders could become lodged in the mother’s pelvis, preventing the birth from proceeding normally. In response, doctors need to perform special medical maneuvers to safely guide the baby through the delivery safely. Failure to do so may result in a birth injury. While not all instances of shoulder dystocia automatically hurt the child, this type of obstruction is known to cause long-term damage if handled incorrectly. Our Kansas City birth injury lawyers, who are also doctors, are well-versed in this area of birth injury law, and we can assist you if your baby has suffered from a shoulder dystocia injury.
Do you need counsel on a shoulder dystocia birth injury? Contact the doctor-lawyers at Cullan & Cullan for a free in-depth consultation and case review.
What Are the Risk Factors for Shoulder Dystocia?
In some cases, shoulder dystocia is an unforeseeable birth complication. However, there are also several risk factors that can make it more likely, and your doctor must be aware of these issues to help limit the impact.
The top risk factors indicating shoulder dystocia may occur include:
- Maternal diabetes: If the mother has diabetes, the child is likely to be larger and their subcutaneous fat may have a different distribution than a normal infant. A skilled doctor should understand that shoulder dystocia is a risk in these cases and should work with the mother to control glucose levels during pregnancy.
- Late labor/gestation: The closer the mother is to the 40 week delivery date, the bigger the baby will grow, increasing its weight and shoulder diameter. This can put severe strain on the mother and ultimately lead to shoulder dystocia. In order to prevent this, some doctors recommend inducing labor earlier.
- Epidural use: Using an epidural too early in the birthing process can relax the uterus for extended periods of time, slowing the progress of labor and increasing the risk of stress on both mother and child. If your doctor has misjudged the timing of an epidural or failed to perform an emergency C-section as appropriate, shoulder dystocia may often occur.
- Maternal history of previous dystocia: One of the strongest risk factors for shoulder dystocia is in a mother with a history of these complications. Once your doctor knows that you have a history of shoulder dystocia, they can and should work with you to formulate a birth plan accordingly.
The True Cost of Shoulder Dystocia
Although there are shoulder dystocia deliveries that end without injury to mother or child, one of the most tragic consequences can be brachial plexus damage. The brachial plexus is made up of the nerves within the neck/spinal column. During shoulder dystocia, these fragile tissues and veins may become stretched or torn which may result in your child suffering from life-long loss of arm and shoulder movement, and in some rare cases, paralysis. These injuries are very painful and can result in lifelong disability affecting every aspect of your child’s life.
Some other common injuries sustained during a shoulder dystocia complication include:
- Maternal vaginal tears
- Psychological trauma
- Brain damage
- Birth asphyxia
- Bone fractures, for both child and mother
Holding Negligent Practitioners Accountable for Your Child’s Injuries
A skilled medical practitioner may not be able to prevent shoulder dystocia. However, if your doctor has failed to perform the due diligence required to limit the effects of this complication, the hospital may be liable for damages. While nothing can compensate for the pain you and your family have experienced, you may be able to win critical financial assistance for any future medical expenses ahead. Our doctor-lawyers at Cullan & Cullan focus exclusively on medical malpractice and personal injury cases like these, and we can give you a full case review backed by research and medical training.
If you need assistance with a shoulder dystocia case, contact our Kansas City birth injury lawyers, who are doctors, at Cullan & Cullan at (816) 253-8606. We offer free initial consultations.