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4 Newborn Injuries Caused by Shoulder Dystocia

a newborn

4 Newborn Injury Complications Caused by Shoulder Dystocia

One of the most feared complications of a normal vaginal delivery, shoulder dystocia is a frightening reality that most U.S. labor and delivery teams are not nearly as prepared for as they should be. The American Family Physician defines shoulder dystocia as a difficulty during labor that occurs when the anterior shoulder of the baby gets stuck behind one of the mother’s pelvic bones during a vaginal delivery and ultimately delays birth.

Today, clinicians have many tools available to recognize the knowns risks of shoulder dystocia and should be trained to adhere to more conservative approaches and tactics to ensure a safe delivery with minimal harm of pressure put onto the baby or the umbilical cord. Although risk factors are identifiable during the course of prenatal care, doctors do continue to make delivery mistakes such as having a mom continue to push or fail to intervene soon enough. These medical errors can result in several significant birth injuries to the infant’s nerves and oxygen flow, and the mother.

  1. Central neurologic injuries (hypoxia): Oxygen deprived at delivery can lead to severe organ damage in newborns followed by a fatal outcome or severe life-long pathologies.
  2. Fractures: Fracture of the clavicle or collarbone is the most common fracture during a shoulder dystocia labor and delivery.
  3. Brachial plexus palsy: This occurs when the group of nerves that supplies the arms and hands is injured. It is diagnosed in up to 20 percent of newborns with shoulder dystocia.
  4. Fetal asphyxia: This is the most feared complication of shoulder dystocia requiring babies to be delivered within five to 10 minutes of a dramatic halt of blood flow in the umbilical cord caused by pressure or pulling (placental abruption, uterine rupture). Babies will suffer irreversible neurologic damage and sometimes even death.

Labor and delivery complications can lead to permanent severe injuries to both mother and child although 50 percent of these events are thought to be avoidable with proper planning and care, according to the University of California at Davis Family Practice Network.

Post-Delivery Stage Exams Must Be Documented

There is also a significant risk of maternal injuries due to shoulder dystocia related delivery mistakes such as postpartum hemorrhage and uterine rupture. After shoulder dystocia has been identified, and the infant is delivered, the care the mother and her child receive through the third stage of labor must remain actively managed. This requires the coordinated efforts of a team with the experienced skills to inspect for vaginal and vulvar lacerations, perform appropriate neonatal resuscitation if necessary, examine for all evidence of trauma in both mother and baby, and document Apgar scores and any bruising or injuries found on newborn exams, as well as multiple post-delivery check-ups.

Many of the calls that we receive are from women who aren’t sure if they need legal advice but want to talk to someone who knows the law and whom they can trust. If pursuing a lawsuit, our experienced team will perform a thorough review of your doctor’s every move and the maneuvers used to deliver your baby. A mother’s and her infant’s pre and post-natal care should have been well-documented, and we will examine every single management step taken before, during and after the delivery process that may have caused a preventable injury.

Fighting for Mom and Baby

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys have taken on every role in life and are uniquely positioned to understand your worries and sensitive needs. We can be relied on to get answers, settle disputes, and earn you compensation for economic losses, physical and emotional damage to your quality of life, and even the lost life of a child. Please do not hesitate to call us at 312-332-2872 (toll-free 1-877-374-1417).