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Shoulder Dystocia


Legal Representation for Victims of Birth Injuries

While many children are born healthy in this country, the reality of childbirth is that there is great potential for things to go wrong. When complications arise during delivery, doctors and their actions become incredibly important. A single mistake or moment of inaction can have serious repercussions for the mother and the baby alike.

When medical professionals do not handle a birth complication in time, or deliver a baby improperly, they can be responsible for any injuries the baby suffers. If your child has suffered birth injuries due to the mistakes of a medical professional, he or she will need compensation moving forward. Call Norton & Spencer, P.C., at 866-251-5423 to tell us about what happened. We can examine your case and take action to protect your child’s rights.

What Is Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia occurs during vaginal childbirth when the head of the baby emerges from the birth canal but the shoulders are stuck on the mother’s pelvic bone. This can happen when the baby is particularly large, but also due to other factors. It can be avoided through Cesarean section delivery, and medical professionals who suspect shoulder dystocia may occur often suggest C-section in order to avoid it. Once the baby is stuck, however, getting him or her out by C-section is impossible. Doctors often have to reach into the birth canal and perform maneuvers to free the child’s shoulder and deliver successfully.

Consequences of Shoulder Dystocia

When shoulder dystocia occurs, babies suffer some type of birth injury about 20% of the time, which can cause either temporary or permanent damage. The common consequences for the child are:

  • Brachial plexus injuries – The brachial plexus is a group of nerve roots passing through upper segments of the spinal cord, between the neck and shoulder. Brachial plexus injury is the most common infant injury from shoulder dystocia (called “obstetrical BPI”), and when doctors tear or stretch these nerves, partial or complete arm paralysis can occur, including:
    • Erb’s palsy – The more common of the two brachial plexus injuries, Erb’s palsy paralyzes or weakens the muscles of the upper arm. It often results in the upper arm being pulled in toward the body and the forearm extended, sometimes described as a “waiter’s tip” position. More than 90% of Erb’s palsies totally resolve and leave no permanent damage.
    • Klumpke’s palsy – Rarer than Erb’s palsy, this affects the muscles of the lower arm. The elbow becomes flexed and the forearm “opens” with the palm facing up, often resulting in a “clawlike” position of the hand. Only 60% of Klumpke’s palsies totally resolve.
  • Fractured clavicles – The second most common injury from shoulder dystocia is a fractured clavicle. While this can be painful for the child, recovery is fairly straightforward and it does not usually have lifelong consequences.
  • Birth asphyxia – The most serious consequence of shoulder dystocia is asphyxiation, which leads to widespread brain damage. The damage depends on the amount of time the baby’s head has emerged but the shoulders remain stuck. Once the baby runs out of oxygen reserves in the umbilical cord, about five minutes is enough to result in brain injury. Longer can mean death. For this reason, it is crucial that medical staff act quickly when dystocia occurs to protect the child.

Injuries to the Mother

With shoulder dystocia, the mother is also at risk of suffering major blood loss. This is often caused by tearing during childbirth, and if not responded to promptly by medical staff can put the mother’s life in danger. Damage can also be done to the mother’s bladder in these situations.

After a Preventable Birth Injury, Speak to a Lawyer

Childbirth is stressful enough. When birth injuries occur, it can become overwhelming. You are not alone, however, and you do have rights that protect mothers and children injured during birth. Call the Kansas City birth injury attorneys at Norton & Spencer, P.C., today at 866-251-5423 to discuss what happened. We can help to take some of the burden off your shoulders and get your child the compensation he or she will need for the future.

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