The American Family Physician Journal describes shoulder dystocia as one of the most terrifying emergencies that can occur in the delivery room. This injury occurs when the baby’s head has been delivered, but the baby is trapped inside by the anterior shoulder being lodged behind the public bone of the mother.
As a result of the entrapment, the baby does not slide out after the head easily. Instead, additional maneuvers by the doctor are required to loosen up the entrapment so the baby can slide down the birth canal. Not only is shoulder dystocia incredibly dangerous for babies, but it can have devastating consequences for the mother as well.
Unfortunately, these injuries can result in the need for both immediate and long-term medical care, which is costly, painful, and time-consuming. When babies or their mothers are injured, as a result of a medical professional’s negligence, it is crucial the families reach out to a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
The lawyers at The Malpractice Group firmly believe families deserve justice after enduring a devastating birth injury like shoulder dystocia. These injuries are life-threatening and can result in the need for extensive and expensive medical treatment. For this reason, we feel families deserve to recover. Contact The Malpractice Group at your earliest convenience to see how our medical malpractice attorneys can help you.
What is Shoulder Dystocia?
Infant Shoulder Dystocia is an injury that results from complications during childbirth. These injuries are often the result of infants’ shoulders becoming lodged in the mother’s pelvic bone during the birthing process. This is often due to the baby being too big for the birth canal.
Babies who are born face-first and pulled out by their faces have an increased risk of suffering a shoulder injury at birth. When babies are pulled out in this manner, it can cause undue stress on the neck region, which can result in devastating injuries. Babies who are born feet first are also at increased risk for suffering unnecessary stress to the shoulder and neck areas.
Unfortunately, an array of factors make babies more likely to suffer these injuries. Some conditions that increase the risk of shoulder dystocia injuries include:
- Mothers who have diabetes
- Fecal macrosomia
- Having late labor and delivery
- Having labor induced
- Using an epidural during delivery
- Mothers who suffer from obesity
- The birthing process of multiples
- Prior instances of labor resulting in shoulder dystocia
The use of a vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery can have a detrimental impact on a child suffering a shoulder dystocia injury. When medical professionals use these tools, they increase the likelihood of shoulders becoming lodged behind the public bone.
Doctors must monitor these conditions and factors throughout the entire pregnancy, labor, and delivery process. These injuries are particularly devastating, so careful measures should be taken to prevent them.
Symptoms and Risks of Infant Shoulder Dystocia
The first sign of shoulder dystocia is seeing the baby’s head come out without being followed by the shoulder region and the rest of their body. Instead, the body becomes lodged into the pelvic area of the mother, trapping the body in. Removing the baby from this position requires care and consideration. Unfortunately, there are numerous instances where medical professionals attempt to remove the baby with incredible force, causing devastating injuries to the baby.
When negligent measures are taken to rectify shoulder dystocia, babies often suffer facial injuries, broken bones, and devastating brachial plexus palsy. Depending on the type of injuries sustained by the baby, symptoms may be:
- Nerve damage in the affected area
- Pain in the injured area
- A claw-like appearance to the hand
- Light paralysis on the affected side
Mothers are also at risk of suffering devastating and potentially life-threatening injuries as a result of shoulder dystocia. Some possible consequences that mothers can endure include uterine rupture, lacerations, and even hemorrhaging. If you or your child suffered debilitating birth injuries, contact a lawyer as soon as possible to explore legal options available for you.
Is Shoulder Dystocia a Preventable Injury?
Infant Shoulder Dystocia is considered a preventable complication in most instances. Doctors who accurately monitor and detect fetal distress can take swift action to prevent these devastating injuries from happening. When doctors note any of the signs or symptoms of difficulties during labor, they can opt for an emergency C-section before attempting to birth the child.
In addition, infants who have higher birth rates and those diagnosed with cephalopelvic disorder should be candidates for C-sections. Ultimately, it comes down to the physician making a decision as to whether or not a C-section will reduce the risks of shoulder dystocia occurring during delivery. Doctors will also consider whether the risks associated with a C-section outweigh the potential dangers of the injuries associated with a shoulder dystocia injury. Thorough monitoring during pregnancy and labor is the key to determining which option is best to protect the mother and child.
If delivery results in shoulder dystocia, doctors need to effectively manage the emergency and take appropriate measures to release the child and complete the delivery. Some of the methods doctors use to deliver babies after shoulder dystocia occurs include:
McRoberts Maneuver: Named after William A. McRoberts, Jr., the McRoberts maneuver involves hyper flexing the mother’s legs tightly to her abdomen in order to shift the position of the child and allow them to flow through the birthing canal. This maneuver helps to increase mobility at the sacroiliac joint so the pelvis can rotate and release the shoulder of the baby.
Suprapubic Pressure: This method involves an attending physician manually dislodging the anterior shoulder of the baby from behind the pelvic region of the mother. The attending makes a fist and places it just above the pelvic bone while pushing the shoulder of the baby in either direction.
Internal Rotation: Also known as the Rubin II maneuver, this method involves the physician inserting their fingers on one hand into the vaginal behind the posterior aspect of the baby’s anterior shoulder and rotating it. This maneuver effectively reduces the diameter of the shoulder girdle so the baby can make its way through the birthing canal.
Removal of the Posterior Arm: This method involves the attending physician reaching inside the vagina during delivery and grasping the arm of the child. The physician will then pull the child’s arm out, enabling the body to rotate and follow through the birthing canal.
Zavanelli Maneuver: This method involves the attending physician pushing the head of the child back into the birth canal. Once this method is utilized, doctors will typically rush to prepare the mother to deliver the child through a C-section rather than reattempting a natural birthing process.
It is crucial that doctors act quickly and carefully to remove the impacted shoulder and allow the delivery to occur. Doctors who engage in negligent behaviors can cause devastating injuries to both the mother and child. To determine whether a nurse, doctor or another medical professional can be held liable for injuries or complications from a failure to appropriately respond to shoulder dystocia, it is imperative that you reach out to a lawyer as soon as possible. Our attorneys will evaluate what a reasonable physician with a comparable background would have done to determine if your physician acted in a logical manner. If reasonable care could have prevented the mistakes or injuries from happening, the doctor can be held liable for resulting injuries and damages.
Treatment Options for Shoulder Dystocia Injuries
In many cases, children who endure shoulder dystocia go on to live without any injuries or complications. In these cases, no treatment is required as the condition resolves itself. In other cases, babies may need therapy, medical treatment, or even surgery to rectify the problem. The type and severity of the injury will play a key role in determining what, if any, treatment is needed.
Generally, cases where shoulder dystocia results in brachial plexus injuries require treatment most often. These treatments can range from a range of motion therapy, physical therapy, and strength training to surgical intervention. Timely diagnosing these conditions is key in determining what treatment is available and increasing the probability of recovering.
The Malpractice Group Can Help You
If your child suffered devastating birth injuries, and you believe they were caused by a negligent nurse, doctor, or other medical professionals during the birthing and labor process, it is crucial that you reach out to a shoulder dystocia lawyer as soon as possible. You may have legal options available to you.
Our team at The Malpractice Group has extensive experience helping families protect their legal rights after babies suffer debilitating birth injuries. Our team is dedicated to helping families understand their rights after an Infant Shoulder Dystocia injury by helping determine if the injury was caused by the actions of a negligent medical professional. We fight to help families protect their legal rights and obtain the compensation they need and deserve. Contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (312) 561-4324 to see how we can help you.