What Is Shoulder Dystocia?
The term “dystocia” is derived from two Ancient Greek words, “dys-,” a prefix meaning “bad,” and “tokos,” meaning “childbirth.” Shoulder dystocia is a type of birth complication in which one of the baby’s shoulders becomes lodged against the mother’s pubic symphysis above the pelvic opening. When this happens, there is a major risk of injury or death for both the mother and child, as the child may suffer oxygen deprivation due to compression of the umbilical cord, and the mother may experience tearing in the uterus, cervix, vagina or rectum.
What Types Of Birth Injury Does Shoulder Dystocia Cause?
Brachial plexus injury is perhaps the most common type of birth injury related to shoulder dystocia. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves extending from the lower neck through the shoulder and down into the arm and hand. It is susceptible to damage if the obstetrician pulls too hard in an attempt to resolve shoulder dystocia, as the nerves may be stretched, ripped, or even torn from their roots, resulting in the paralyzing condition known as Erb’s palsy. Shoulder dystocia can also potentially cause cerebral palsy, as the compressed umbilical cord may result in hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. This is a condition caused by oxygen deprivation that leads to permanent brain damage.
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What Causes Shoulder Dystocia?
In some cases, shoulder dystocia is an unavoidable birth complication, but it is frequently preventable. If the baby is especially large — or if the mother’s pelvis is particularly small — there is a greater risk of shoulder dystocia. Therefore, mothers who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes are frequently advised to pursue a C-section delivery to avoid this type of complication. It has also been associated with maternal diabetes. Failure on the part of an OB/GYN to diagnose such conditions and recommend appropriate preventive measures may expose the doctor to legal liability.
Another factor that may cause shoulder dystocia is the misuse of forceps, as this technique sometimes draws the baby down the birth canal in an inappropriate position. If your labor was complicated by shoulder dystocia and you suspect this is the cause of your child’s injury, let an attorney from The Law Office of Richard M. Kenny review the situation to determine whether you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor.