In our most recent article, we covered the warning signs of shoulder dystocia and what to look out for if you think your child was injured during the event of a shoulder dystocia birth.
Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby is proportionally too large for the mother’s birth canal (cephalopelvic disproportion). This causes the baby's shoulders to become lodged while being delivered. If it is not quickly recognized and properly treated by the medical providers, the baby’s brachial plexus nerves – the nerves that control movement and sensation of the arm can be stretched and permanently damaged. This nerve damage can leave your child with a lifelong disability, and even a completely useless arm.
So, what are the long-term effects of shoulder dystocia?
Erb’s palsy is one of the more severe complications resulting from shoulder dystocia.
Also known as Brachial Plexus Palsy, Erb’s palsy is a potentially lifelong condition resulting from injury to the brachial plexus, a group of nerves that carry signals from your spinal cord and into your shoulders, arms, and fingers. The injury can result in little or no movement and decreased sensation in the infant’s affected arms, hands and fingers.
The majority of Erb’s palsy complications can be improved within the first year of a child’s life through quality care and treatment such as physical therapy and gentle exercises. However, with severe nerve damage, surgery may be required months or even years after the injury. In the most severe cases, where the nerves have become completely torn away from the spinal cord, a child may suffer lifetime disability such as paralysis in the affected arm.
Shoulder dystocia, if not properly recognized and managed, can lead to other complications such as umbilical cord compression between the impacted shoulder and the pelvis. The umbilical cord supplies oxygen from the mother to the baby’s brain. With prolonged compression, the cells of the brain are starved of oxygen, necessary for brain function and survival. If the compression is significantly long, brain injury becomes permanent, causing cerebral palsy.
Cerebral palsy is a permanent disability that impacts the nervous system, affecting the child’s intellect, speech, sight, coordination, and causing permanent pain and movement difficulties. The seriousness of cerebral palsy can vary significantly between individuals. More minor cases may only result in limp or awkward movements, whereas more severe cases can leave a person disabled and confined to a wheelchair.
Living with the long-term effects of shoulder dystocia
Living with these conditions can make activities such as getting dressed, bathing, driving and even enjoying sporting activities a struggle. This makes life significantly debilitating.
Many Erb’s palsy victims find that it it also impacts career opportunities. They are unable to apply for physically demanding jobs such as emergency services roles, construction work, wait staff, or delivery services. These limitations can, in turn have devastating psychological and emotional effects, causing further negative long-term impact on an individual’s life.
Children who suffer the most extreme consequence of shoulder dystocia, cerebral palsy, will likely experience the aforementioned effects to an even greater degree. The severe brain injury will affect the intellectual, physical, and emotional development of the child on a global scale. In many cases, the child will require a lifetime of medical, surgical, and physical rehabilitative support such as around the clock care and adaptive equipment – including changes to a home for adaptive care and access. Depending on the degree of brain injury, the child will require specialized therapy such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy. The child may never be able to be financially self-supporting.
Compensation can help fund a better quality of life
A birth injury is an emotionally and financially devastating event for any family and what’s more, can create emotional stress too. A successful injury lawsuit can provide you and your family with compensation for your child’s past and future suffering, and could also help fund the ongoing costs of medical treatment, medications, surgery, specialty care, any home adaptations and other long-term expenses you will experience due to any healthcare provider’s negligence.
Let us help rebuild your child's life
To find out more, contact us for a no-cost, no-pressure consultation today. There is no fee unless we win your case.