Birth injuries are complications that affect the youngest victims in personal injury law. Shoulder dystocia is a rare yet serious birthing complication that can lead to a birth injury.
Birth injuries due to shoulder dystocia occur during the second stage of birth, after a baby’s head has come out. Once the head is out, one or both of the infant’s shoulders can get stuck behind the mother’s pelvis. Since the baby is stuck and a natural birth process has been complicated, it’s called shoulder dystocia.
This situation completely depends on how the infant moves into and through the birth canal. Even though a majority of shoulder dystocia injuries heal within 6 to 12 months, more serious cases and medical negligence may leave a child at risk for permanent disability or, in rare cases, death.
How is a Baby Usually Born?
To better grasp how shoulder dystocia can cause a birth injury, let’s look at how a ‘normal’ (or unobstructed) baby is born. As a woman nears the end of her pregnancy, the baby will begin to turn around and face its head down towards the birthing canal, facing the mother’s rear.
Once the first stage of birth begins, the infant moves from the mother’s uterus, where it has been growing, down through the cervix (located between the pelvis bones). The front of the pelvis is referred to as the pubic bone, where a baby can get stuck during shoulder dystocia.
If everything above has gone correctly, the head comes out first. After the baby’s head emerges, the infant will rotate its body sideways to allow its shoulders and body to pass through the pelvis easily.
What Causes Shoulder Dystocia?
According to the March of Dimes, shoulder dystocia causes one or both of an infant’s shoulders to lodge behind the pubic bone, preventing the baby from being freed easily. Most often, shoulder dystocia is caused by the anterior (front) shoulder getting stuck behind the pubic bone. However, it’s also possible for the posterior (back) shoulder to get stuck behind the tailbone.
This obstruction can create risks for both the mother and the baby. Shoulder dystocia means slow and difficult labor or birth. Furthermore, while there are risk factors for shoulder dystocia, healthcare providers usually cannot predict or prevent it.
It is often only noticeable after labor has begun. As such, it’s still important to note that if your baby is very large before birth, called fetal macrosomia, your provider may recommend that you have a cesarean section. Other reasons for slow or difficult labor that causes shoulder dystocia include:
- The mother’s pelvis is small or abnormal
- The mother is obese
- The mother has gestational diabetes
- Multiple babies are being born at once
- The pregnancy has gone past the due date
- Labor is induced
- Previous shoulder dystocia issues
- The mother gets an epidural to help with pain during labor
- The mother has an operative vaginal birth
Although discussing these possibilities with your doctor is always a good idea, you should note that shoulder dystocia may occur even when there are no prevalent risk factors. It is the healthcare provider’s responsibility to keep track of how your baby comes out to make any changes to the birthing procedure to prevent damage to you or the baby. Doing otherwise would qualify as medical negligence.
Shoulder Dystocia Injuries to Infant and Mother
If a baby’s shoulder cannot enter or pass through the mother’s pelvis during delivery, the infant will become wedged in the birth canal, and the force with which the mother’s body is trying to push the baby out can lead to severe injuries for both the mother and child.
The following are some of the injuries to both the mother and child caused by shoulder dystocia:
Shoulder Dystocia Injuries to the Infant
Shoulder dystocia can cause injuries to an infant that can crop up immediately after childbirth and in the first couple of weeks and months of their life. These injuries can have catastrophic consequences, affecting how the baby grows in its first stages of life and possibly leading to death.
The following are some of the injuries that shoulder dystocia can cause to an infant:
- Deprivation of oxygen leads to brain damage (birth asphyxia)
- Fractured arm or collarbone
- Nerve damage to the shoulder, hand, or arm (brachial plexus injury)
- Erb’s palsy, meaning the arm is numb or paralyzed, with 1 in 10 babies with Erb’s palsy having lasting damage
- Cerebral palsy or other disabilities
- Lack of oxygen leads to a baby’s death
Depending on the severity of the injury, a shoulder dystocia injury can heal in 6 to 12 months. However, without proper medical guidance, your baby can suffer catastrophic damage that can lead to permanent disability or even death.
Shoulder Dystocia Injuries to the Mother
The pressure generated by the baby struck behind the mother’s pelvis can lead to intense pain and damaging injuries to the mother. Although most may think first of the damage to the baby, mothers need to understand that they can suffer medical consequences from shoulder dystocia that can cause significant harm.
The following are some of the injuries a mother can suffer if their baby has shoulder dystocia during childbirth:
- Bruising or tearing of the cervix, rectum, or vagina
- Uterine rupture
- Bladder bruising
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Separation of the pubic bones
For a free legal consultation, call 833-552-7274
How Should a Doctor Handle Shoulder Dystocia?
If the mother has diabetes or any other possible causes of shoulder dystocia noted above, the doctor should offer a c-section to prevent any damage to the mother or the baby. If they cannot predict that shoulder dystocia could complicate the birthing process, they should be able to know when the baby’s head comes out, and the body is stuck. Once they realize the baby suffers from should dystocia, the doctor needs to adjust to prevent shoulder dystocia injuries and damage to the mother and the infant.
Hospitals provide a safety checklist that doctors should follow if the baby suffers from shoulder dystocia. It involves:
- Calling for help
- Adjusting the mother’s body to rotate the pelvis
- Using the McRoberts maneuver to flex the mother’s thighs to move the baby’s shoulders out from under the pelvis
- Making an incision to widen the vagina, putting pressure on the baby to rotate it
- Rolling the mother with the Gaskin maneuver
- Removing the posterior arm with the Jacquemir’s maneuver
- Using entering maneuvers to extract the baby
Shoulder Dystocia as Medical Negligence
The causes of shoulder dystocia, as described above, sometimes occur due to medical error. This specifically happens when forceps or a vacuum are used in delivery (operative vaginal delivery). These injuries may also occur if a physician is not well trained or significantly deviates from the accepted standard of care.
Moreover, while filing a medical malpractice claim, you can cite birth injuries as receiving financial compensation for their liability stems from medical malpractice. Any person who assumes any part of the responsibility for a patient’s medical and psychological well-being can be found liable for medical malpractice. This includes nurses, pharmacists, psychologists, and specialists.
Human Error in Medical Malpractice Claims
It is essential to remember that doctors and other healthcare providers are only human. As such, they are as prone to making mistakes as anybody else. When a medical professional or another healthcare provider with the trust of the community makes a mistake, they could cause a victim to suffer a serious, sometimes life-altering, injury or worsened condition.
No one wants to see their baby go through a life of hardships and challenges due to a birth injury. Victims who suffer from cases of medical malpractice often find themselves facing significant medical bills and other expenses. Fortunately, the attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA know how to handle claims that involve young loved ones and medical mistakes.
What Damages Can You Pursue for Shoulder Dystocia Injuries?
What damages you can pursue for shoulder dystocia injuries depends on whether you pursue damages for the mother or infant. You can pursue damages for future medical bills, pain and suffering, and rehabilitation costs caused by shoulder dystocia complications for the mother and the infant.
Damages like lost wages and lost earning potential depend on how the injuries affect the mother and infant. The mother can pursue lost wages if they need to take time off work to recover from shoulder dystocia complications. If the damage done by a birthing injury can affect an infant’s ability to work later in life, you may be able to pursue compensation for lost wages.
The following are some of the other damages you can pursue compensation for from a birth injury:
- Disability costs
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish and psychological trauma
- The cost of specialized medical equipment the baby needs to live
How Can a Lawyer Help With a Birth Injury or Medical Malpractice Claim?
As a new parent, you can receive the help you need from a personal injury lawyer to take the load off a birth injury or medical malpractice claim off your back. You don’t have the expertise, experience, or time to handle a claim in a way that can maximize your potential settlement or award. A birth injury lawyer can assess the specifics of your case to determine what you should pursue, collect evidence to prove your case, and negotiate with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Negotiating with the insurance company of a doctor or hospital can be a daunting task, as they have the resources and staff to limit your settlement to increase their profits. They can use insurance adjusters to find information that can reduce your potential settlement. Your birth injury lawyer can enlist the help of expert witnesses, such as doctors, special education experts, and rehabilitation specialists, to attest to the negligence that occurred and how your baby will suffer throughout their life.
A trained and experienced birth injury attorney will use medical records, including diagnostics, delivery flow sheets, fetal monitoring strips, and records of any birthing tools used, to determine if any of the many possible birth injury scenarios occurred. The attorney will have medical experts available to consult in every aspect of the investigation. If it is determined that negligence played a part in the child’s birth injury, the attorney will move to pursue compensation for the family of the infant.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Birth Injury Claim
At Dolman Law Group, we have experienced birth injury lawyers that have helped Florida victims, both mothers and children alike, pursue compensation for damages. Our birth injury lawyers emphasize communication and offering personalized attention to ensure your potential damages reflect how you and your infant have suffered and could suffer in the future. We won’t accept the first settlement offer and will work diligently until you receive fair compensation for the harm you and your baby suffered.
If you have a child that shows shoulder complications due to neglect during birth, you owe it to your child and yourself to reach out to a birth injury attorney at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for exceptional legal representation. Contact us today for a free evaluation of your case at (727) 451-6900 or on our online contact page.