Shoulder Dystocia

Childbirth should be a beautiful and profound experience for two new parents, but sometimes, complications arise that cause fear and tragedy during the birthing process. There are many different ways a vaginal childbirth can be complicated, from natural and undetectable complications, to medical negligence. It is important to be able to tell the difference between a force of nature, and an avoidable medical error.

Shoulder Dystocia; What is It?

Shoulder dystocia is a fetal emergency in which an infant’s anterior shoulder becomes caught behind it’s mother’s pelvic bone. There are many risks associated with shoulder dystocia, which is why doctors must act quickly and efficiently when this complication arises.

new jersey philadelphia birth injury attorneys shoulder dystocia

Shoulder dystocia, in itself, simply means a troublesome birth dealing with shoulder complications. Shoulder dystocia has varying warning signs and definite risk factors, but is reasonably difficult to predict. Risk factors include high birth weight, maternal obesity, and diabetes, but the presence of these factors does not solidify the occurrence of shoulder dystocia. These signs, however, should drive a doctor to suggest a C-section to avoid the complications that could arise from a possible shoulder dystocia. If, for some reason, these signs are misread, or parents want to continue with vaginal childbirth, doctors are equipped with varying techniques and maneuvers that can be used to safely extract the child from the womb.

How Do Doctors Manage Shoulder Dystocia?

A common treatment mnemonic device is ALARMER. The steps are in order from least to most invasive to reduce the level of harm to the mother should the infant be delivered with one of the earlier maneuvers. Each letter in ALARMER stands for a technique used in a shoulder dystocia delivery.

Ask for the assistance of an obstetrician, anesthesiologist, and pediatrician.
Leg Hyperflexion
Anterior Shoulder Disimpaction
Rubin Maneuver
Manual delivery of posterior arm
Roll over on all fours

Sometimes, doctors act negligently and do not immediately take advantage of the maneuvers developed to safely deliver a baby in the midst of shoulder dystocia. Some doctors have used excessive force, pulling on the infant carelessly in an effort to remove it from the birth canal. This excessive use of force can cause a brachial plexus injury, resulting in Klumpke Paralysis or Erb’s Palsy. These types of paralyzes occur when nerve roots are torn out of the neonatal spinal column. Erb’s Palsy is paralysis of the arm, and Klumpke Paralysis is paralysis of the forearm and hand.

Conversely, while some doctors act too quickly or forcefully, other doctors wait too long or fail to be pro-active in the delivery room. Waiting or taking too long to remove the infant from the birth canal could result in permanent brain damage or death, as the risk of fetal hypoxia is greater. Often, the umbilical cord becomes compressed while the infant is, in essence, trapped within the birth canal. This compression causes oxygen deprivation, which in turn can causes permanent brain damage.

Failing to utilize the treatment options developed for babies with shoulder dystocia is medically negligent and has the potential to cause permanent damage. Often, this damage is the catalyst for a lifetime of expensive, supplemental care. When this happens, it’s time for a lawyer to become involved and inform you of your legal rights. If medical negligence is the cause of your child’s permanent disability, you are entitled to compensation for the costs of medical treatment now required for the remainder of your child’s life.

My Child Suffers From a Birth Injury, What Can I Do?

If your child now suffers from a birth injury, you probably have many questions regarding your legal rights and what you are or are not entitled to. The additional medical care required to sustain a good quality of life for your child will come at a high cost, and you may be entitled to compensation for those costs. Contact the Mininno Law Office for a free case evaluation. Even if you only have questions, we will be happy to take the time to answer them. You may also call for a free consultation at (856) 833-0600 in New Jersey, or (215) 567-2380 in Philadelphia.

John Mininno and Jim Nixon work on a contingency basis and all consultations are free until a settlement is reached.

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