Bradshaw Law, LLC
Bradshaw Law, LLC

What You Should Know About Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia can result in life-altering injuries or even death for mothers and their babies. Because the condition poses serious risks, healthcare professionals overseeing pregnancy, labor, and delivery must adequately evaluate risk factors and respond appropriately if complications occur.

What Is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a condition that occurs when one or both of a baby’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis during delivery. Consequently, the infant cannot pass through the birth canal. The complication occurs in 0.2% to 3% of pregnancies. Using various methods or tools to move the baby into a better position, or performing episiotomies, c-sections, or other surgical procedures may help get the baby out.

What Complications Can Shoulder Dystocia Cause?

Mothers and babies may experience temporary or long-term effects due to shoulder dystocia deliveries. Babies may experience birth injuries including broken arms or collarbones; nerve damage to their hands, arms, or shoulders; and lack of oxygen. Mothers may suffer uterine rupture, bruising of the bladder; bruising or tearing of the vagina, cervix, or rectum; or postpartum hemorrhaging. Shoulder dystocia injuries often resolve with time and leave no long-term complications. In more severe cases, however, mothers or babies may suffer permanent disability or death due to injuries suffered because of shoulder dystocia.

What Causes Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia may occur for any number of reasons; though, several risk factors may increase the chances of this type of birth trauma occurring. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • A twin, triplet, or other multiple-birth pregnancy
  • Gestational or preexisting diabetes
  • A baby weight of more than eight pounds and 13 ounces
  • Maternal obesity or excess weight gain during pregnancy
  • A previous shoulder dystocia delivery

Additionally, actions on the part of health care providers may contribute to the occurrence of shoulder dystocia. For example, administering oxytocin to induce labor, using tools to assist in the birth, and administering epidurals may also play a role in causing this type of birth trauma. If medical professionals fail to provide pregnancy, labor, or delivery care that meets the accepted standards of care, parents may pursue a medical malpractice case to recover compensation for their and their child’s injuries.