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Birth Injuries: What is Shoulder Dystocia?

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Birth Injuries: What is Shoulder Dystocia?

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Shoulder dystocia is a type of birth injury that occurs when a baby’s shoulders become stuck during the birthing process. Women with babies weighing more and women who have experienced births involving shoulder dystocia before are more likely to experience this birth trauma. While most babies born in cases involving shoulder dystocia are perfectly healthy, it can cause serious risks for mother and child if not dealt with accordingly. This can be tricky since shoulder dystocia is difficult to predict and often only noticeable after labor has begun. If you or your baby suffered from a birth injury or trauma related to shoulder dystocia, talk to a birth injury lawyer about your options for physical and financial recovery.

Birth injuries related to shoulder dystocia include the following:

  • Birth asphyxia (oxygen deprivation)
  • Fractured arm or collarbone
  • Nerve damage
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Erb’s palsy (a condition in which the affected arm is paralyzed or numb)
  • Infant death due to oxygen deprivation
  • Uterine rupture or hemorrhage on the part of the mother

Medical professionals are required to pay close attention to any signs of physical distress during the birthing process.

Delivery room doctors and nurses are trained to monitor the mother’s and child’s heart rate and vitals during the labor and delivery process. While the mother’s vitals may be measured by traditional means, the baby’s heart rate before and during birth are watched through the use of fetal monitoring strips. These are gathered using a sensor held against the mother’s abdomen with an elastic belt. However, when the medical professionals in attendance fail to adequately monitor the strips, if the baby is under significant physical stress it may go unnoticed, increasing the risk of injury to the infant and mother.

Lack of communication is cited as one of the most common causes of medical malpractice.

The most common cause of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice is thought to be a lack of attention and communication by and among the medical practitioners present. In many cases of shoulder dystocia, it may be possible to prevent a birth injury altogether by ordering a Cesarean Section (C-Section). Other methods of delivery such as those involving forceps or vacuums may also put mother and child at greater risk of shoulder dystocia injuries. Medical malpractice can be hard to identify, but in general if another doctor with the same training in the same position could reasonably be expected to act differently in regard to the mother’s or baby’s health, malpractice may have occurred. That said, most doctors and nurses are highly trained professionals who prioritize the health of their patients above all else. Even in those cases, injuries can still occur.

If you or your baby’s birth injury was caused by medical malpractice, you may be eligible to file a claim.

Birth injury cases can be notoriously complicated, as there are often multiple injured parties involved (i.e. mother and child), and the damages can be far-reaching. Past, present, and future medical bills, lost wages, and more may be compensated in a successful medical malpractice claim. Additionally, future expenses and need for support in regard to a birth injured child may also be included in the compensable damages of a medical malpractice lawsuit. To learn more about shoulder dystocia or for help filing a claim after a birth injury, reach out to a birth injury attorney as soon as possible.

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