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Birth Injuries: Shoulder Dystocia

Serving Clients Throughout New York City for Close to 30 Years

Dystocia is a term used to describe a birth that is difficult or one that varies from the norm. As this is such a broad description, approximately one in five births involves some degree of dystocia. In shoulder dystocia, the head of the baby has already been delivered, but the shoulder is not able to pass the pubic symphysis.

This is an extremely serious complication as the child can die due to the compression of the umbilical cord while they are stuck in the birth canal. In most cases, once the head has been delivered, the rest of the baby follows easily. However, as the infant’s shoulder is caught behind the pubic bone, it causes a delay which may require maneuvering on the part of the physician.

What causes shoulder dystocia?

Cases of shoulder dystocia occur in thousands of deliveries every year. However, are there any reasons why one mother may be more susceptible to this complication than others? One common reason this may occur is because the mother’s pelvic opening is too small to for the child’s shoulders to pass through. Another factor which could complicate matters is if the baby was unusually large or heavy. This could occur if the mother was overweight or suffered from diabetes.

How can it be treated?

When a doctor sees that there are complications with the birth, there are several different maneuvers which can be used in order to treat the issue. In many cases, a couple maneuvers will need to take place until one is successful. First is suprapubic pressure. By applying pressure to the pubic bone, it may allow the shoulder to move past the pubis symphysis. The Gaskin maneuver involves the mother getting on her hands and knees as this can change the position and diameter of her pelvis. A maneuver that has been shown to be successful 42% of the time is McRobert’s maneuver. By flexing the legs towards the shoulders while lying on her back, the pelvic bone is expanded and the baby is allowed to be delivered normally.

Could there be complications after birth?

It is the responsibility of the doctor or midwife to thoroughly examine the child in order to ascertain whether or not the child has suffered from any adverse side effects following the shoulder dystocia. In some cases, the child has difficulty breathing and may require further assistance in order to start breathing normally. There could also be fractures in the infant’s collar bone or humerus or a brachial plexus injury.

If you believe that you suffered needlessly because the doctor or medical staff acted negligently, your case could be covered under medical malpractice and you could be entitled to compensation. Contact a New York birth injury lawyer to learn more.