Giving birth is an exciting and emotionally charged time, however, there are many things that can go wrong. While most issues that present themselves during the birthing process can be adequately managed by vigilant medical professionals and adequate health care, it's still a frightening experience when additional intervention is required. For both parents-to-be and doctors, shoulder dystocia is a daunting birth complication, and if not handled appropriately, this condition can cause significant complications for both mother and baby.
What is Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury that occurs when the mother is able to give vaginal birth to the head of the baby, but the shoulders get stuck inside the mother's pelvis. Typically only one shoulder gets stuck, however, in rare cases, both shoulders may catch on the pelvic bones. Naturally, this scenario is quite painful for the mother, and puts the baby in jeopardy.
Causes of Shoulder Dystocia
While shoulder dystocia can occur without warning and in births without risk factors, there are some issues that do increase the risk of dystocia, including:
- A baby with a high birth weight
- A birth that occurs after 40 weeks gestation
- Maternal obesity
- Maternal diabetes
- Induced labor
- Birthing multiple babies
- A birth that is assisted with forceps or a vacuum
Since shoulder dystocia is very difficult to predict and can occur in any birth, it is critical that medical providers be vigilant and prepared to handle dystocia if it occurs.
How Can Shoulder Dystocia Be Handled?
Quick action is necessary in order to safely and effectively mitigate the potential complications that can arise from shoulder dystocia. During birth, if a provider suspects that a baby's shoulders are stuck inside the mother's body, he or she may elect to widen the birth canal with an episiotomy, or may rotate the baby's shoulder while the baby is still inside the uterus. Pressure may be applied to lower portion of the mother's stomach, or a provider may assist the mother in pushing her thighs up towards her belly to facilitate birth. With proper medical care, most cases of shoulder dystocia can end well.
Complications of Shoulder Dystocia
Without an adequate diagnosis and treatment plan for shoulder dystocia, significant complications can arise for both mother and baby.
A mother may experience increased pain during birth if the baby's shoulders become stuck inside her body, even with pain medication. Proceeding with a vaginal birth may cause the mother to tear her vagina, rectum, cervix, or cause the uterus to rupture. In rare cases, mothers who give birth to babies with shoulder dystocia experience significant and heavy bleeding after birth. Often, these complications can be managed. Tears may be sutured and heavy bleeding or hemorrhaging may require a blood transfusion to prevent excessive blood loss.
The risks to the fetus in a case of shoulder dystocia are more significant. The most common complication is an injury to the baby's shoulder and arm, or the hand. The bones may break, or there may be injury to the muscles and nerves of the arm. Typically, these issues are treated and frequently resolve before the baby's first birthday. In the most severe cases of shoulder dystocia, the stress of birth and prolonged time spent in the birth canal can cause the baby's brain to be deprived of oxygen. This can cause severe brain injury, including epilepsy and cerebral palsy, and may lead to death.
Shoulder dystocia is most certainly a birth emergency, and must be treated as such. It is critical that the medical professionals assisting with the birth are experienced and have a plan in place to safely and effectively reduce risk in a case of dystocia.
Options for Compensation After a Birth Injury
Shoulder dystocia is just one of many potential birth injuries that can occur during the birthing process. While it is truly impossible to predict whether dystocia will occur or not, it is nonetheless imperative for medical professionals to handle the situation adequately. When a medical professional fails to properly proceed in a case of dystocia, both the mother and the child can experience serious and long lasting consequences. This type of medical malpractice may be able to be compensated, and families affected by shoulder dystocia complications have legal options.
If your family has been affected by shoulder dystocia during the birthing process, don't hesitate to reach out to a seasoned injury attorney for assistance. As a veteran birth injury lawyer, Attorney Ivan M. Diamond has the expertise and resources to help you not only to obtain compensation for the damages you've incurred, but also to hold the medical professionals who failed to act appropriately responsible for their actions. Call today at 877-960-1702 to learn more about getting the justice you and your family deserve.