Shoulder dystocia only affects 0.2 to 3% of pregnancies, but it is considered an emergency and must be handled appropriately. While there are several effective methods for addressing this rare delivery complication, missteps can put both mother and child at risk.
If you experienced shoulder dystocia during birth, and a negligent medical error caused an injury or death in your family, you may need our legal services at Spohrer Dodd.
Call (904) 637-7721 today for a free consultation.
What Is Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury that occurs when one or both of an infant’s shoulders become stuck in the mother’s pelvis during a slow or difficult labor and birth. When the doctor takes the correct steps, the baby can still be born safely. Mistakes, however, can cause serious complications.
If you’ve been harmed by a shoulder dystocia-related problem, contact our attorneys today.
Preventing Shoulder Dystocia
Because shoulder dystocia is difficult to anticipate, prediction and prevention is not an effective strategy. That being said, there are certain risk factors that increase your chances of experiencing shoulder dystocia.
Doctors should be mindful of:
- Macrosomia – If your baby weighs more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces at birth, your doctor should consider a cesarean delivery (also known as a c-section).
- Diabetes – If you have preexisting or gestational diabetes, you may give birth to a larger baby and doctors should be weary of shoulder dystocia.
- Previous pregnancies – If you had shoulder dystocia in a previous pregnancy, your doctor should prepare for the possibility of it happening again or order a preventative c-section.
- Multiples – If you are giving birth to twins, triplets, or other multiples, your chances of shoulder dystocia are much higher.
- Weight Gain – If you are overweight or gained a significant amount of weight during pregnancy, you may have a higher risk for shoulder dystocia.
- Oxytocin – If you are given oxytocin to induce labor, your chances of shoulder dystocia may increase. You should not be given oxytocin if you exhibit other risk factors.
- Epidurals – If you are given an epidural to help with labor pains, your doctor should monitor you carefully for signs of shoulder dystocia. Similar to oxytocin, epidurals should not be given if there are other significant risk factors.
- Short or sustained pushing – If your second stage of labor is very short or very long, complications like shoulder dystocia can arise.
- Operative vaginal delivery – If your doctor uses a vacuum, or forceps, to help guide your baby through your birth canal, they should be especially mindful of your child’s shoulders. Assisted birth is the most common risk factor for shoulder dystocia.
If your pregnancy or labor is associated with any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor before or during birth.
If you have already given birth and believe any of these risk factors were overlooked, or that assistive tools were misused, call (904) 637-7721 as soon as possible.
Complications Associated with Shoulder Dystocia
Both you and your baby can be impacted by shoulder dystocia.
For children, complications include fractures to the collarbone and arm, damage to the brachial plexus nerves, and birth asphyxia – which can lead to hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and, in extreme cases, death.
Mothers may suffer postpartum hemorrhaging (excessive blood loss), serious tearing of the perineum (the skin between the vulva and the anus), or uterine rupture.
Most women and children recover quickly, but severe complications can lead to disability, maternal mortality, or infant death.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a shoulder dystocia complication, tell us your story today.
How Should Shoulder Dystocia Be Treated?
The American Academy of Family Physicians instructs doctors to use “the HELPERR Mnemonic” as soon as shoulder dystocia becomes obvious. Shoulder dystocia often presents itself with the “turtle sign,” in which the fetal head emerges and then retracts against the perineum.
Once the “turtle sign” is evident, physicians should:
H – Call for help
L – Legs (use the McRoberts maneuver)
P – Suprapubic pressure
E – Enter maneuvers (internal rotation)
R – Remove the posterior arm
R – Roll the patient
To clarify, episiotomy is a surgical cut made to expand the vagina during childbirth. In many cases, the incision is not needed at all, and the baby can be delivered using the McRoberts maneuver. This simple procedure involves flexing the maternal hips by placing the mother’s legs onto her abdomen. Nurses and family members can help with this movement while an assistant uses their hand to apply suprapubic pressure (or push the area above the mother’s pubic bone in an effort to free the infant’s shoulder).
Even if you don’t fully understand this procedure, your doctor should. If the above steps were not attempted during your shoulder dystocia emergency, your doctor may be liable for medical malpractice.
File a Claim with Spoher Dodd Today
While no one expects emergencies in the delivery room, your doctor has a responsibility to handle them appropriately. If your medical provider panicked, made a mistake, or suffered a lapse of judgement, you should not have to face the consequences alone.
Filing a lawsuit can help you and your family recover from preventable injuries and losses by equipping you with the financial tools you need to move forward.
For over 45 years, our firm has been assisting those harmed by medical malpractice and birth injuries. We understand how to pursue justice on your behalf, and we will fight to help you obtain the results you deserve.
Call (904) 637-7721 today to set up a free consultation in our Jacksonville office.