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The Ins and Outs of Shoulder Dystocia

By Grant Law Office on February 23, 2020

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Shoulder dystocia is a complication of birth. It can cause problems for the mother and serious, permanent injury to the baby. Shoulder dystocia requires immediate medical attention. The longer the delay before the medical team responds effectively, the more serious complications can be.

What Is Shoulder Dystocia?

During birth, after the head is delivered, the baby’s head and body will turn sideways. In most cases, this allows the shoulders to pass under the pubic bone. Once the shoulders have passed through, the rest of the body can be delivered. In some cases, however, the baby’s shoulders cannot get past the public bone. This situation, called shoulder dystocia, is a medical emergency. The child cannot begin breathing until his or her body is born. The longer the delay, the higher the risk of asphyxia (oxygen deprivation).

Factors that Contribute to Shoulder Dystocia

Some women are more likely than others to experience shoulder dystocia during childbirth. Factors contributing to the risk of shoulder dystocia include:

  • A very large baby
  • Diabetes in the mother
  • Pregnant with more than one child
  • Obese mother
  • Labor and delivery after the due date
  • The mother experienced shoulder dystocia in the past
  • Induced labor
  • Epidural during labor (pain medication administered through a tube in the lower back)
  • Operative vaginal birth (doctor uses forceps, vacuum, or other tools to move the baby through the birth canal)

What Physicians Can Do To Prevent Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia occurs most commonly with babies who weigh more than 4.5 kg (approximately 10 lbs.). Physicians and care providers can help prevent shoulder dystocia by predicting a large baby and recommending that the labor be induced before full term.

What a Medical Provider Can Do If Shoulder Dystocia Occurs

If shoulder dystocia occurs, the provider can call in assistance from other staff, which may include the obstetrician, midwives, and a pediatrician. The care provider should focus on getting the mother into a new position to increase pelvic size (provided she has not had an epidural), and if that fails to correct the problem, move the baby into a better position. If changing positions does not work, the doctor may opt to break the baby’s collar bone to free the shoulder.

Doctors and midwives may try various maneuvers, such as flexing the mother’s legs toward her shoulders as she lies on her back, or applying pressure to the pubic bone to release the shoulder. C-section may be performed as a last resort, with the mother under general anesthesia and the child moved back up the birth canal.

If your child has suffered oxygen deprivation or nerve injuries because medical staff failed to deal with shoulder dystocia properly, you may have a medical malpractice claim for compensation. Contact the Atlanta birth injury lawyers at Grant Law Office at (404) 995-3955 to schedule a free consultation. We can tell you if you have a case and what damages you may be entitled to recover.

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Posted in: Medical Malpractice

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