What Is Shoulder Dystocia And How Does It Happen?

Shoulder dystocia refers to difficulty in delivering the baby's shoulders. After the head has come through, the shoulder becomes impacted behind the mother's pubic bone, which can cut off vital blood and oxygen to the child. As a result, it's considered an obstetrical emergency.

Shoulder dystocia requires skillful management to safely deliver the infant — and to avoid significant fetal injury or even death.

What Are The Risk Factors?

Although doctors can't always predict which babies will suffer from shoulder dystocia, some pregnancies carry more risk than others:

  • Women who are obese or have excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • Women with gestational diabetes
  • Women who have had previous deliveries with shoulder dystocia
  • Women whose pelvic structure is too small in relation to the baby's head (cephalopelvic disproportion)

Close monitoring is essential when a pregnant woman is at risk of having a baby with higher-than-average birth weight (macrosomia). Regular measurements and ultrasounds can help doctors evaluate the estimated size and weight of the fetus.

What Can Go Wrong?

When shoulder dystocia occurs, doctors have a responsibility to properly manage the situation and take steps to protect both mother and baby. The attending obstetrician, midwife, nurse or family practitioner needs to be aware of the maneuvers that may be necessary to safely deliver the baby. In some high-risk cases, a Cesarean section may be appropriate.

Mistakes during this critical time can result in serious injuries to the fetus such as:

  • Oxygen deprivation (birth asphyxia), which can lead to brain damage or cerebral palsy
  • Erb's palsy, which involves damage to the bundle of nerves that runs from the neck down through the arm (the brachial plexus)

The mother can also experience complications such as significant bleeding.

We'll Help You Get Answers

If your baby has suffered serious injuries as a result of shoulder dystocia, you're likely wondering whether it could have been prevented. At the Boston-area law firm of Barry D. Lang, M.D. & Associates, we can help you get answers. Our attorneys help families hold negligent obstetricians and medical professionals accountable for their errors. Because we have doctors and nurses on staff, we can quickly evaluate your situation, giving you a realistic assessment of whether you're entitled to compensation.

We understand what it takes to secure compensation and seek justice after a serious birth injury. We can answer your questions, address your concerns and help you through the legal process.

To speak with an attorney at our firm about shoulder dystocia, contact us online or call us toll free at 800-LAWYERS. We offer free consultations so you can get the answers and advice you need.