Families in Newton and across the state are inevitably excited when they are expecting a child. While the blessed event is a foundational moment in the lives of families, one of the fears that is often unexpressed and unexpected is if there is an incident during the delivery process that injures the baby. Unfortunately, these do happen, leading to the number of times a birth injury case is filed. One particular injury that happens in certain circumstances during the delivery process is shoulder dystocia.

When the fetus is preparing to be born, there is the possibility that its shoulder will lodge itself against the pubic bone of the mother as it is coming through the birth canal. When this happens, the head will be pulled against the opening of the vagina. The infant will not be able to breathe due to compression of the umbilical cord and chest. The baby will not receive the proper amount of oxygen because of this. Often, this happens in larger fetuses as the birth can take longer. Doctors will sometimes use equipment such as a vacuum extractor or forceps. If these items are used improperly, the baby can be injured.

Doctors are relied upon to understand how to deal with this kind of complication. When the doctor is trying to free the baby from being wedged behind the pelvic bone, there can be damage to the nerves in the baby’s shoulder. There can be damage to the bones in the arm or a broken collarbone. If the nerves in the shoulder are harmed, there is a chance that the baby will end up with Erb’s Palsy. In some cases, the baby will recover from Erb’s Palsy on his or her own. In others, surgery will be necessary to repair the injury.

While there are often extenuating circumstances that might lead to shoulder dystocia, there are also times when a negligent doctor will make the issue worse with misused equipment, overreacting aggressively or a failure to act. If there is a belief that a child was injured due to a doctor’s mistake, it can lead to massive medical costs and possible long-term damage to the child and/or the mother. Seeking legal assistance is an important part of moving forward in a birth injury case.

Source: MerckManuals.com, “Shoulder Dystocia,” accessed on Feb. 2, 2015