Understanding Shoulder Dystocia

Giving birth can be a stressful and exciting time. You hope for the best outcome, but sometimes complications can arise during labor and delivery. One of these complications that can lead to injuries is shoulder dystocia.


What is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a complication that occurs when the baby’s head is delivered but the shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. While relatively rare, shoulder dystocia can make a delivery complicated and can lead to injury to the baby.


What Injuries Can Result From Shoulder Dystocia? 

One major risk of shoulder dystocia is oxygen deprivation. This can lead to brain damage and other medical issues. Babies who experience oxygen deprivation can develop serious complications such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and seizure disorders. Shoulder dystocia is also a major cause of brachial plexus injuries. This type of injury causes damage to the nerves that connect the shoulder, arm, and hand to the spinal cord. Most brachial plexus injuries heal on their own with time. However, sometimes the nerves are damaged to an extent that permanent injury is possible. In addition, the force applied during a delivery with shoulder dystocia can result in bone fractures.


What are the Risk Factors for Shoulder Dystocia?

There is no definitive way to prevent shoulder dystocia, however there are some risk factors that medical providers can take into account. Medical providers should determine who is at risk for shoulder dystocia and take steps to protect the baby and the mother. Some risk factors include:

  • History of shoulder dystocia in previous pregnancies
  • Maternal obesity
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Large infant for gestational age
  • Excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • Late term pregnancy
  • Long second stage of delivery

Medical providers should consider these risk factors and plan accordingly. For example, if a baby is larger than its gestational age then it may be wise to schedule a C-section.


Contact a Birth Injury Attorney

If your baby was injured due to shoulder dystocia, you should have your case evaluated by an experienced birth injury attorney. At Bonina & Bonina, P.C., we have been helping the victims of medical negligence for over 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.