Although most pregnancies go smoothly and the majority of babies are born without injuries, sometimes things go wrong that can cause a newborn to suffer an injury at birth. Unfortunately, medical negligence is often to blame for many birth injuries, such as in the case of shoulder dystocia.
What Is Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is an injury affecting an infant’s shoulder area that occurs during the delivery phase of childbirth. Some symptoms of shoulder dystocia include:
- A claw-shaped hand in the affected arm
- Partial paralysis in the affected arm
- Pain and nerve damage in the affected limb
How Does Shoulder Dystocia Occur?
When a baby is born with shoulder dystocia, it means that the baby got hung up on the mother’s pelvic bone, primarily because the width of the baby’ shoulders is too big for the birth canal. Sadly, this complication causes an obstetrician to pull on the baby or twist the baby into an unnatural position in order to get the baby out of the birthing canal. When too much stress is placed on a baby’s neck and shoulder area, the result can be shoulder dystocia. This type of birth injury can also happen when a baby is born feet first or face first (and needs to be pulled out by the feet or face).
Obstetricians have maneuvers they can perform to guide the baby out of the birth canal safely. They know that if they pull on a stuck baby, it is possible to cause shoulder dystocia and other birth injuries that can cause lifelong complications. This is why doctors need to monitor the baby’s size before delivery, watch closely for fetal distress during delivery, and be prepared to order an emergency C-section delivery if necessary. If an obstetrician fails to do this and a baby suffers from shoulder dystocia, a doctor should be held responsible for the birth injury and lifelong complications.
Infants With Shoulder Dystocia
When a child suffers from shoulder dystocia at birth, he or she is much more likely to suffer brachial plexus palsy, which is damage to the brachial plexus nerves. When nerves are stretched, torn, or detached, a baby can suffer nerve damage that can include Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy—two common forms of brachial plexus palsy.
Also, infants with shoulder dystocia are typically at high risk for sustaining fractured clavicles, broken bones, and facial injuries. Additionally, babies with shoulder dystocia often get stuck in birth canals for too long, which is why it is likely they can suffer oxygen deprivation that may lead to cerebral palsy and brain damage.
Can Shoulder Dystocia Be Treated?
The severity of the injury will determine if a baby with shoulder dystocia will be able to make a full recovery. In many cases, babies with shoulder dystocia are able to make a full recovery of the injured area with physical therapy. However, if a brachial plexus injury occurred in addition to shoulder dystocia, a baby may need surgery and other treatments.
No birth injury, whether minor or severe, is ever something a new parent wants to hear. The very word ‘injury’ linked to a baby is enough to cause a parent to be worried and frightened. Although there are many birth injuries that can be corrected through physical therapy, surgery, and other treatments, some birth injuries caused by medical negligence end up causing a baby and an entire family a lifetime of challenges.
Seeking Legal Help
If your baby suffered shoulder dystocia or any type of arm or shoulder injury during childbirth, you should speak with an attorney who has experience handling birth injury cases. Our law firm has been successful in representing families in birth injury cases and would be honored to help you hold the negligent doctor or healthcare worker accountable for the wrongs your baby suffered. Please call our law office at (703) 721-4233 today to make sure your family collects the compensation you deserve.
Physical therapy and other treatments can be expensive, and your baby may need money for future treatments. If the hospital offers to pay your medical bills or gives your family money for the birth injury your baby suffered, please don’t accept it without talking with us first. Even if you aren’t sure you want to hire an attorney, we encourage you to educate yourself on medical malpractice claims and order a free copy of our book, Do I Have a Case? A Patient’s Guide to Virginia Medical Negligence Law.
About the Author
Attorney Michael J. Shevlin is an award-winning trial attorney and founder of Shevlin Smith. He is solely devoted to representing families in medical malpractice and serious personal injury cases, which includes birth injuries. He has been selected by his peers as a Best Lawyer in America, among a number of other accolades.