Shoulder Dystocia is a medical term used by doctors to describe a situation where a baby’s shoulder gets “stuck” against the mother’s pelvic bone as the baby pushes through the birth canal. It occurs in less than 1% of all live births in the U.S.
In the vast majority of cases, doctors are able to release the baby’s shoulder without causing any permanent injury to the baby by gently manipulating the baby’s head.
However, if the doctor is not careful, or if the dystocia is too severe, a stretching injury can occur to the brachial plexus nerve bundle at the base of the baby’s neck. In some children, this can lead to a lifelong disability.
• The “turtle sign during labor” – this is when the baby’s head will appear but will retract back into the birth canal, similar to a turtle’s head going in and out of its shell. This is usually paired with the baby having a red, puffy face.
• The baby may be suffering from discomfort or nerve damage in the injured area.
• The baby may have a claw-like hand.
• In more serious cases, the child may also suffer paralysis of the affected limb, known as Erb’s palsy.
• A broken collarbone can also be the result of shoulder dystocia.
• And finally, bruising of the affected area.
While there is no definitive sign of shoulder dystocia risk, below are the factors which are most commonly identified in pregnant women where a shoulder dystocia occurs during birth.
These actors have also been associated with an increased risk of shoulder dystocia during delivery:
• Mothers with narrow hips or a petite frame
• Mothers with an advanced gestational age
• Multiples, i.e., twins, triplets etc.
While these factors are more commonly found when a shoulder dystocia has occurred, having any of these factors does not necessarily mean a shoulder dystocia will occur during your delivery. Shoulder dystocia can also occur when none of these signs are present.
The best bet is to have an obstetrician who is aware of your risk factors and who has a safe plan for delivery that takes them into consideration. Speaking to your doctor about the warning signs of shoulder dystocia which concern you will help to minimize risk, alleviate worries and, most importantly, keep both you and your baby safe.
Shoulder dystocia can sometimes be a result of medical malpractice, occurring from improper, assisted vaginal delivery using forceps or vacuum. Also, in many cases, a victim may have a case if a medical professional fails to recognize the risks or properly resolve the shoulder dystocia.
If your baby has suffered shoulder dystocia, the experienced Birth Injury Lawyers at D’Amore Personal Injury Law can help you understand your options. To find out more, reach out for a no-cost, no-pressure consultation today.
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