Shoulder Dystocia

If your child suffers from birth trauma-related injuries, contact the experienced medical malpractice attorneys at the Kocian Law Group. Birth trauma occurs when a baby is injured during childbirth. Many such injuries are preventable through the use of reasonable care.

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia occurs when the infant’s head clears the pubic bone but the shoulders do not, leaving the infant stuck while passing through the gap in the pubic bone. Care must be taken to move the infant enough to allow the shoulders to pass through safely.

The injuries caused by shoulder dystocia can include complex and sometimes catastrophic conditions. Shoulder dystocia can cause fractures in the shoulder or in the skull, if forceps or a vacuum extractor are used to pull the baby free. If the umbilical cord is pinched by the trapped shoulder, fetal asphyxiation may result, leading to brain damage or death. Shoulder dystocia may also cause damage to the nerves in the shoulder and neck, resulting in paralysis or partial loss of use of the affected arm. Nerve damage is referred to as brachial plexus injury and can be of several different types, including Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy.

Shoulder dystocia is often evident just after the baby’s head has emerged. The neck suddenly retracts back due to the shoulder getting caught on the pubic bone, causing the baby’s cheeks to puff out. At this point, the experienced medical professional knows that the baby’s shoulder is stuck and if he or she is unable to free the shoulder within a few minutes, the baby may suffer from irreversible brain damage and possibly death.

Shoulder dystocia occurs in approximately one delivery out of every two hundred. A brachial plexus injury will occur in one out every ten cases of shoulder dystocia. The larger the baby, the more likely shoulder dystocia will result. During pre-natal imaging, doctors should examine the size of the fetal head, shoulders, and chest in relation to the size of the opening in the mother’s pelvis. If it appears the baby will have difficulty passing through the pelvic opening, a Caesarean section may be necessary to ensure a healthy delivery.

Shoulder dystocia is a known problem, and physicians who specialize in childbirth typically know how to predict and prevent it. If your child has been injured by a doctor’s failure to diagnose or prevent shoulder dystocia, the attorneys at the Kocian Law Group can help.