The Small Firm for Big Cases

How Does Medical Negligence Cause Shoulder Dystocia?  

Shoulder dystocia is a condition that can occur during childbirth when one or both of the infant’s shoulders get stuck in the birth canal, behind the mother’s pubic bone. If not handled correctly, shoulder dystocia can lead to brachial plexus injuries or fractures, as well as maternal injuries such as uterine tears. Shoulder dystocia injuries can result from the misconduct of health care providers. A Philadelphia shoulder dystocia attorney may be able to help if your child suffered harm due to a medical provider’s negligence.

What Is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a birth complication where the baby’s shoulder or shoulders get lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. It can occur when the birth canal is small, the baby is large, or the baby enters the birth canal at the wrong angle. It is an emergency complication during a vaginal delivery that requires immediate response from health care providers. Failing to react appropriately to shoulder dystocia can put the mother and baby’s lives at risk.

Shoulder dystocia can cause a range of injuries to both mother and child. The infant’s brachial plexus, which is the bundle of nerves located in the shoulder, could sustain an injury. A brachial plexus injury can cause conditions such as Erb’s palsy (a partially paralyzed arm) or Klumpke’s palsy (paralysis in the lower arm and hand). The baby could also suffer a fractured clavicle if pulled on too hard in the birth canal. Brain damage is also a possibility from being stuck in the birth canal without oxygen for too long (brain hypoxia). Hypoxia can result in cerebral palsy or developmental delays.

Who Is at Risk for Shoulder Dystocia?

An obstetrician or gynecologist may be able to predict shoulder dystocia or other birth complications and prepare for them ahead of time based on risk factors. If ultrasounds and scans show that the baby is large, for example, or there is excessive tissue around the baby’s neck (a nuchal cord), this can increase the risk of the baby getting stuck in the birth canal and point toward a C-section delivery instead. Maternal factors that can increase the risk of shoulder dystocia include excessive prenatal weight gain, maternal obesity, maternal diabetes, a small birth canal and protracted labor.

Shoulder Dystocia and Medical Negligence

Shoulder dystocia itself may be preventable. If it is clear that a baby is large and the mother’s birth canal is too small, an OB-GYN could order a C-section from the beginning rather than proceed with a vaginal delivery. If shoulder dystocia does occur during a vaginal delivery, the physician must react quickly and appropriately to this complication. The doctor may need to order an emergency C-section, for example. Otherwise, different obstetrical maneuvers should be applied to dislodge the infant’s shoulders and deliver the baby with minimal harm to mother and child.

Medical negligence or medical malpractice means that a doctor falls short of the professional duty of care when treating a patient, resulting in harm. If most doctors in the same or similar circumstances would have handled the delivery differently and prevented the child or mother’s injury, the attending physician or others involved in the delivery can be held accountable for medical negligence. An experienced medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia can help an injured patient obtain a settlement or jury verdict that provides compensation for all of the patient’s losses, including pain and suffering, medical expenses to cover the care required for an infant’s lasting developmental delays, and lost earning capacity..

Common Shoulder Dystocia Claims for Medical Malpractice

Different types of medical malpractice can result in shoulder dystocia birth injuries. Failing to do any of the following may constitute medical negligence and cause a shoulder dystocia injury:

  • arranging a C-section for a high-risk mother
  • Performing the C-section quickly enough
  • Noticing shoulder dystocia in a timely manner
  • Monitoring for signs of fetal distress
  • Reacting promptly enough to this emergency or using the correct procedures.

If an OB-GYN pulls on a baby’s arm too hard while it is stuck in the birth canal and causes shoulder or nerve injuries, this could also be the basis for a medical malpractice claim. Any action or failure to act that a reasonable health care provider would not have done under the same or similar circumstances can constitute medical negligence. To find out if you have a medical malpractice claim in Philadelphia for shoulder dystocia, contact Youman & Caputo to arrange a free case consultation with an attorney.