Shoulder dystocia is an emergency birth complication where one or both of the baby’s shoulders are lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone. This puts the mother and baby at risk for serious injury or death. When shoulder dystocia presents during labor, there are different maneuvers that can alleviate it and help safely deliver the baby. However, even with those maneuvers there is no guarantee of a positive outcome.
If your doctor was negligent during your labor and delivery, and their negligence resulted in a shoulder dystocia-related injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your losses. At Youman & Caputo, our Philadelphia shoulder dystocia attorneys have the legal and medical resources necessary to fight for compensation for your baby’s injuries.
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Why Choose Our Birth Injury Firm?
What is Shoulder Dystocia?
Risk Factors Associated With Shoulder Dystocia
What Birth Injuries Can Shoulder Dystocia Cause?
What Maneuvers Can Resolve Shoulder Dystocia?
Proving Negligence in a Birth Injury Case
When Should You Seek Legal Advice?
Speak to an Attorney Today
Parents trust us with their shoulder dystocia cases because of our long history of successfully handling complex medical malpractice lawsuits in Philadelphia and throughout Pennsylvania. Clients choose us for many reasons, including:
If your child is facing an uncertain future because of an injury sustained from shoulder dystocia, call Youman & Caputo for a free consultation about your legal options. Contact us today at (215) 302-1999 to talk with a Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney.
Shoulder dystocia is when a baby’s shoulder or shoulders get stuck in the birth canal during a vaginal delivery. The name of this injury stems from the Greek words “dys,” or difficult, and “tokos” – birth. Shoulder dystocia can result in severe nerve injuries for the infant due to a stretched and damaged brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is the network of nerves located in the neck and torso. It is responsible for sending signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand.
Shoulder dystocia is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. While it is a relatively rare condition, it can have major complications for both mother and baby. This issue can happen to anyone; there is no way to predict it and no symptoms as it is occurring. It only becomes clear when the baby’s head has been delivered, then pulls back against the mother’s perineum. The mother is then unable to push the baby’s shoulders out, as they are lodged behind the pubic bone, and medical intervention is required for a successful delivery.
While there is a risk of shoulder dystocia with every pregnancy, there are factors that make some women more likely than others to experience it. Some of these risk factors can be identified during prenatal care to avoid shoulder dystocia during labor. However, cases of shoulder dystocia can occur without any warning, and the outcome will depend heavily on the skill used to manage it.
The common risk factors associated with shoulder dystocia include:
If the baby is in the wrong position before or during delivery, the mother’s pelvic opening is too small, the mother is in a position that limits the room in her pelvis or if the baby has a higher birth weight, these are all factors that can increase the risk of shoulder dystocia. In addition, a mother who has experienced shoulder dystocia during birth once is more likely to encounter it again in the future. The presence of risk factors should inform the doctor’s birthing plan.
Shoulder dystocia puts both mother and baby at risk of injury. If the situation is not immediately controlled by the obstetrician, the odds of serious injuries, permanent damage and health issues associated with shoulder dystocia increase. Some of the injuries that a child may suffer could last for the child’s lifetime. Shoulder dystocia is a dangerous situation that requires emergency medical intervention. Some of the complications associated with it include:
In addition to birth injuries that could affect the baby, the mother can also suffer significant harm or injury due to shoulder dystocia. Common complications that affect the mother include postpartum hemorrhage (extreme, uncontrollable bleeding after giving birth), severe tearing of the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus), a rectovaginal fistula, uterine rupture, bladder injuries, and separation of the mother’s pubic bone.
Shoulder dystocia can also cause long-term health issues. While research shows that about 50 percent of babies born with shoulder dystocia regain full function by 3 months and 82 percent regain function by 18 months, permanent damage is possible. A brachial plexus injury, for example, could impact a child’s fine motor skills and the use of the affected limb.
Shoulder dystocia may not be preventable in most cases, but it can and should be properly addressed. If an obstetrician discovers shoulder dystocia, he or she should immediately launch into the correct procedures to successfully deliver the child to minimize the odds of related injuries or nerve damage. There are four main techniques used to free the baby’s shoulder to resolve cases of shoulder dystocia.
If these fail, there are more extreme maneuvers including intentional fracture of the baby’s clavicle to release the shoulder, or a Zavanelli maneuver to push the baby’s head back into the uterus and rush to an emergency C-section.
These maneuvers must be done carefully to avoid further trauma to the mother and baby, but time is also of the essence. In the process, the baby’s brain may be deprived of blood and oxygen, causing other birth injuries like cerebral palsy and brain hypoxia.
It is an obstetrician’s professional duty to look for signs of shoulder dystocia, be prepared to address this issue and other potential delivery complications, properly use birth-assisting tools, safely maneuver the baby out of the birth canal, and order an emergency C-section when necessary. Reacting poorly or incorrectly in the event of shoulder dystocia can result in serious harm to both mother and baby. In this situation, the family may have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim for a birth injury that resulted from negligence.
A common form of medical malpractice associated with shoulder dystocia is an obstetrician pulling or yanking too hard on the baby’s arm or neck. This can stretch, damage and tear the brachial plexus nerves – causing an injury that could be severe and permanent. Any other type of medical negligence or failure to properly react to shoulder dystocia can also cause serious infant and mother injuries that may have otherwise been prevented.
Collecting financial compensation for a shoulder dystocia injury in Philadelphia requires clear and convincing evidence of the defendant’s medical negligence. Proving negligence in a medical malpractice case means establishing proof of certain key elements: a doctor-patient relationship existed, the medical provider committed an act or omission that a reasonable doctor would not have under similar circumstances, the doctor’s negligence is the direct cause of the injury, and the victim suffered compensable losses.
Evidence to prove a shoulder dystocia case often includes medical records, notes from doctors and nurses, eyewitness statements, photographs and video footage, and testimony from a comparable medical expert (such as an obstetrician). Hiring a medical malpractice attorney to represent you during this type of lawsuit can make it easier to preserve and collect key evidence to support your claim.
It can be difficult to prove that healthcare providers were at fault for injuries resulting from their treatment of a patient. A successful claim must be supported by evidence and testimony from highly qualified experts. That is why we diligently investigate our cases to get the best outcome for our clients. At Youman & Caputo, our Philadelphia birth injury attorneys hire medical experts who know the minimum standard of care and review your medical records to identify any failure to meet that standard.
Hiring a Philadelphia shoulder dystocia attorney from the very beginning of your case can make it easier to secure the financial compensation that you and your family need. It is especially important to speak to an attorney if your child suffered severe or catastrophic injuries because of medical malpractice when handling shoulder dystocia. An attorney can pursue maximum financial compensation for the full extent of your child’s past and future losses. Your lawyer can prevent you from accepting less than you need from an insurance company by aggressively fighting for your rights.
If you or your baby is facing an uncertain future because of an injury resulting from poorly managed shoulder dystopia, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Youman & Caputo at (215) 302-1999 to speak with a Philadelphia shoulder dystocia attorney today.
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