Birth Injuries Related to Shoulder Dystocia

Birth injuries are complications that affect the youngest victims. Unfortunately, many birth injuries are preventable and may be the result of medical negligence. One of the most common causes of birth injury is shoulder dystocia, which is a preventable complication.


What is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a complication that occurs during a delivery where an infant’s shoulder becomes caught behind the mother’s pelvis. The baby’s head has been delivered but the baby is stuck because of the positioning of the shoulders. This can sometimes happen when a baby is too large to fit through the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia can lead to a long and difficult labor.


Can Shoulder Dystocia Lead to Birth Injury?

While some babies are delivered without incident after a shoulder dystocia complication, many times, an injury can result. When attempting to pull the baby out of the birth canal, a medical professional can cause injuries such as a brachial plexus injury, fracture, or facial injury.

In a brachial plexus injury or Erb’s palsy, the brachial plexus nerves that go from the spinal cord in the neck down the arm can be damaged. This damage can cause weakness and paralysis in the arm and hand. Although most babies fully recover from Erb’s palsy with time, some babies end up with permanent nerve damage.

Shoulder dystocia can also lead to anoxic brain injury. If during the prolonged labor, the baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen to the brain, serious damage can result. The baby could suffer from a permanent brain injury known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.


How Can a Birth Injury be Prevented?

Medical professionals have an obligation during and before labor and delivery to exercise their duty of care. Before delivery, a doctor should be aware of the risk factors of shoulder dystocia and take the appropriate steps. These risk factors include:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Infant macrosomia—a larger than average baby
  • Late labor and delivery
  • Maternal obesity
  • Pregnant with multiples
  • Use of an epidural
  • Induced labor
  • Prior instances of shoulder dystocia

A doctor should closely monitor a patient when there are risk factors present. They should also recognize when a C-section may be the safer delivery option.

In addition, when shoulder dystocia does occur, the doctor must recognize that it is an obstetrical emergency and take the appropriate steps. They must use the proper maneuvers to dislodge the shoulder and safely deliver the baby. After the baby is delivered, the doctor should closely monitor them for signs of injury. Failure to act appropriately when faced with shoulder dystocia could be medical malpractice.


Contact a New York Birth Injury Attorney

If your child sustained an injury due to shoulder dystocia, you should have an experienced birth injury attorney evaluate your case. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have been helping victims of birth injuries for more than 50 years. Contact us online or call us at 1-888-MEDLAW1 to schedule your free consultation. Home and hospital visits are available. Se habla español.