Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury where one or both shoulders of a newborn baby become stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. Although the type of traumatic birth injury caused by shoulder dystocia generally takes between 6 and 12 months to heal, some injuries may turn into a permanent disability.
Birth injury attorneys work with families whose children were delivered with traumatic birth injuries and can help you if you believe that those injuries were the result of substandard medical care. Call 1-800-222-9529 to connect with an attorney in your state.
Infant Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuits & Injury Cases
In order to bring an infant shoulder dystocia lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove medical malpractice occurred during childbirth. This will require the plaintiff to establish the standard of care was not met, that negligence occurred, and that recoverable damages were suffered as a result. These lawsuits must also be filed within the statute of limitations, which varies from state to state.
Infant Shoulder Dystocia Types
Following deliveries that involved shoulder dystocia, approximately 20 percent of affected babies will suffer a temporary or permanent injury. Shoulder dystocia occurs in about 1 of every 200 births. The most common injury is damage to the brachial plexus nerves, bone fractures, contusions and lacerations, birth asphyxia, and fractured clavicles.
The two types of brachial plexus injuries are Erb’s palsy and Klumpke palsy. Erb’s palsy is paralysis of the arm caused by an injury to the group of the arm’s main nerves which form part of the brachial plexus. This can cause arm weakness and loss of movement. Klumpke palsy is a neuropathy that involves an injury to the nerves of the brachial plexus that affect the lower arm and hand.
Infant Shoulder Dystocia Causes
Shoulder dystocia is a complication that can happen during a baby’s birth if the baby’s shoulders are stuck in the mother’s pelvic area after the head has already come out. One reason for this may be that the baby is too big for the birth canal, called CPD or cephalopelvic disorder. Another cause may be if the baby is born face first and the physician pulls the baby out during delivery by the face, which causes stress on the baby’s neck. If a baby is born feet first, this can also create stress on the shoulder and neck area.
There are risk factors associated with the birth of an infant with shoulder dystocia, including:
- Maternal gestational diabetes
- Maternal obesity
- Use of an epidural
- Labor that was induced
- Prior deliveries complicated by shoulder dystocia
- A late labor and delivery
- Pregnancy with more than one baby
- A newborn baby that is significantly larger than average (also known as fetal macrosomia)
Infant Shoulder Dystocia Symptoms
Physicians can identify shoulder dystocia when they notice that the baby’s head is out of the birth canal, but the rest of the body isn’t able to be delivered.
If your baby sustained an injury after delivery due to shoulder dystocia, he or she may be experiencing nerve damage. You may also notice that the baby’s hand seems claw-like and there may be some paralysis of the affected limb.
Infant Shoulder Dystocia Diagnosis and Treatment
If the doctor who is delivering the baby sees that although the head is out of the birth canal, the body is not following and seems stuck, they should take specific actions to make the delivery easier and will diagnose shoulder dystocia. Long-term complications can occur in these births, including:
- The mother experiencing excessive bleeding during the delivery.
- The mother experiencing tearing of the cervix, rectum, uterus, or vagina.
- A loss of oxygen to the baby’s brain, which can result in brain damage.
- Injuries to the baby’s shoulders, arms, and hands.
If shoulder dystocia is suspected during delivery, the physician may:
- Ask for help from other medical staff
- Recommend an episiotomy, which is an incision in the perineum between the anus and the vagina
- Ask the mother to pull her legs up toward her stomach to flatten her pelvis
- Put pressure on an area of the mother’s pelvis to help your baby’s shoulders to rotate
- Rotate the baby internally
- Free one of the baby’s arms from the birth canal
- Suggest that the mother gets on her hands and knees to make the delivery easier
Infant Shoulder Dystocia Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Know If My Baby Has Infant Shoulder Dystocia?
If the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvis, the nerves in the baby’s head can become stretched, resulting in a brachial plexus injury. This can cause the baby’s arm to be paralyzed. In many cases, this is temporary and resolves within a few hours or days. In a small number of cases, the injury can be permanent. If the baby has pain or redness in their arms or hands, a fracture may have occurred.
If your baby misses their developmental milestones, has bruising, difficulty breathing or eating, drools excessively, seems to favor one side of their body, or has any behavior that seems out of the ordinary, they may have suffered birth injuries. If a baby did not get enough oxygen during delivery, also known as severe asphyxia, they may have some degree of brain damage.
Can Infant Shoulder Dystocia Be Fatal?
If the shoulder dystocia takes more than five minutes to resolve, some babies will need resuscitation. If the baby is not getting enough oxygen, also known as severe asphyxia, they may have some degree of brain damage. Without enough oxygen, the baby will die.
Who Is Liable for Infant Shoulder Dystocia?
Doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers are responsible for providing a safe environment for both the mother and the child during labor and delivery. Some birth injuries and deaths may result from medical negligence or medical malpractice. Your attorney will demonstrate that the healthcare team was negligent during labor and delivery and that the negligence resulted in infant shoulder dystocia.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Infant Shoulder Dystocia?
The time period in which you can file your birth injury claim, or statute of limitations, for infant shoulder dystocia varies from state to state. The wrongful death statute of limitations also varies from state to state. The statute may be tolled, or paused, but this varies from state to state. Speak with a lawyer familiar with the laws in your state to learn more.
Infant Shoulder Dystocia Glossary Terms
What Is Fetal Macrosomia?
Fetal macrosomia describes a newborn that is significantly larger than the average. Generally, the baby will weigh more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces at birth. Genetics may be responsible for a larger than average (LGA) baby but a larger baby can also stem from how much weight a mother gains during her pregnancy. If the mother has gestational maternal diabetes, the baby may be bigger than average.
What Is Maternal Diabetes Mellitus?
Maternal diabetes mellitus is a condition where a hormone made by the placenta prevents the body from using insulin effectively which causes glucose to build up in the blood. Approximately 3 to 8 percent of all pregnant women in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes mellitus during pregnancy.
What Is Suprapubic Pressure?
Suprapubic pressure is a technique that a doctor may use when delivering a baby with shoulder dystocia which involves putting pressure on the baby’s shoulder in a direction intended to facilitate the birth.
Call 1-800-222-9529 for Help With an Infant Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuit
If you think that your child may have been injured during their delivery, call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at 1-800-222-9529 to connect with an attorney practicing in your state. No matter the circumstances of your case, your lawyer will fight for you to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve for your child.