Although modern medicine and technology have managed to make childbirth a relatively routine medical procedure, it remains fraught with potential complications. Most problems that do arise during labor can be relatively minor, but some situations can turn a delivery room into an emergency operating theater.
Shoulder dystocia is a complication that can occur without warning, and challenge even the most experienced medical professionals. When the baby’s head is delivered normally, but the shoulders get lodged in the mother’s body, the condition is known as shoulder dystocia, and can put both mother and child at risk. Research suggests that “The single most common risk factor for shoulder dystocia is the use of a vacuum extractor or forceps during delivery.”
If your delivery was complicated by shoulder dystocia and your or your baby was seriously injured, it’s important to get an experienced medical injury lawyer.
What Can Cause Shoulder Dystocia?
Factors that may raise the likelihood of shoulder dystocia:
- A mother who is over 35 years of age
- Abnormal pelvic anatomy
- Gestational diabetes
- Post-due-date delivery
- Previous incidence of shoulder dystocia
- Short stature
- Induced labor
- Operative vaginal birth
Fetal macrosomia – a larger-than-average fetus – can also contribute to shoulder dystocia. These are babies with a birth weight of more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces, which translates into about 9 percent of babies born across the globe. Symptoms that might suggest fetal macrosomia include large fundal height – the distance between the top of the uterus to the pubic bone – and too much amniotic fluid.
Finally, a protracted labor can increase the chances of shoulder dystocia.
Complications From Shoulder Dystocia
According to Family Physician, shoulder dystocia can pose serious risks to the mother, including:
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Rectovaginal fistula
- Symphyseal separation or diathesis, with or without transient femoral neuropathy
- Third- or fourth-degree episiotomy or tear
- Uterine rupture
Possible injuries to a baby following a poorly managed shoulder dystocia include:
- Brachial plexus injury – According to the Mayo Clinic, “The brachial plexus is the network of nerves that sends signals from your spine to your shoulder, arm, and hand. A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stretched, compressed, or in the most serious cases, ripped apart or torn away from the spinal cord.”
- Erb’s Palsy – This version of a brachial plexus palsy injury affects the upper nerves of the arm, the upper C5–C6 nerves, in particular, leaving the limb paralyzed, either partially or fully.
- Klumpke’s Palsy – This brachial nerve injury damages the lower C8 and T1 nerves. This includes the wrist and fingers.
- Clavicle fracture – This is a break in the bone connecting the breastbone to the shoulder.
- Fetal hypoxia – When the fetus is deprived of oxygen for too long, it can suffer fetal hypoxia and can lead to temporary or permanent neurologic damage.
- Humerus fracture – This is a break in the upper arm.
- Fetal death
If your labor included complications that resulted in these of forceps to facilitate delivery, and your baby has been injured as a result, get in touch with the Colorado medical malpractice lawyers at Burg Simpson Colorado immediately by calling 303-792-5595 or fill out our Free Case Evaluation Form now so we can speak with you.