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Shoulder dystocia during birth can cause serious problems

You and your baby could face serious injury if shoulder dystocia complicates the birth.

Repercussions could be long-lasting, especially for the infant, unless your medical team takes immediate steps to provide proper treatment.

What happens

During birth, your baby’s head emerges, but one or both of the infant’s shoulders are stuck, which will prevent him or her from moving on through the birth canal.

Increasing risk

If you have a small frame, or your pelvis is abnormally shaped, the chance of shoulder dystocia for the baby increases. However, there are other conditions or situations that could heighten the risk:

  •         The pregnancy continues past the due date
  •         The doctor induces labor
  •         You have obesity or gestational diabetes issues
  •         There is use of a vacuum device or forceps in delivery
  •         The weight of the baby is over 8 pounds, 13 ounces

Managing shoulder dystocia

The primary concern in the case of shoulder dystocia is lack of oxygen because contractions will cause the umbilical cord to compress between the baby’s body and the cervix. In this case, the doctor must intervene to deliver the baby quickly.

After birth, your medical team will examine the baby for arm or shoulder issues. There could be a broken clavicle, and if so, the baby may wear a sling to keep the arm stationary. A broken clavicle usually heals in six to eight weeks, but there could also be permanent nerve damage in the shoulder, arm or hand.

Possible medical errors

If shoulder dystocia is evident, the medical team will need to perform more maneuvers than usual to deliver the baby. Injury is less likely during fetal maneuvers than with maternal maneuvers. Most of the time delivery will commence without harm to either the baby or mother. However, if you believe your medical team was responsible for any injuries you or the baby may have suffered as a result of shoulder dystocia, your next step may be to explore the legal options available to you.

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