Imagine being in the delivery room. You or your wife have waited nine long months to bring a child into this world. For the most part, the birth has gone smoothly. Suddenly, something goes terribly wrong and your child suffers a potentially life-altering shoulder injury. This is the typical fact pattern in shoulder dystocia cases.

Shoulder dystocia occurs when your baby’s head has emerged, but one of the baby’s shoulders becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone, preventing the birth of the baby’s body. But how, and why, does this happen? Well, there are numerous causes for the shoulder dystocia. Here are just a few:

Using Forceps Improperly During Birth

Forceps can be used by a doctor to assist in the delivery process. Forceps typically grip around the baby’s head so that the baby can be assisted out of the birth canal. Generally, forceps are helpful in challenging deliveries, but when used improperly by a doctor or nurse-midwife, forceps can cause severe, and potentially life-altering injuries to the baby. It is possible for the doctor to grip the forceps too tightly which injures the baby. Also, improper handling of the forceps can turn the head of the baby in the wrong direction. This can impact the baby’s shoulders and result in shoulder dystocia.

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Too Much Downward Pressure on the Mother’s Belly

Applying excessive fondal pressure (i.e. downward pressure on the mother’s belly) is usually done  to assist the baby in descending into the birth canal. But this pressure can cause the baby’s shoulders to get entangled behind the pelvis, which leads to shoulder dystocia.

Using an Epidural

An epidural is basically anesthesia used to assist the mother during labor. The epidural helps lessen the pain of labor but contractions continue. As a result of the epidural, the mother can lose her sensation to push and when this occurs, the pushing is not done naturally. This can cause the baby to descend improperly into the birth canal. This can lead to an impacted shoulder and, subsequently shoulder dystocia. Medical professionals are working on devices that may help to prevent this type of injury in the future.

Why You Should Contact a Shoulder Dystocia Injury Attorney

If your child suffered an injury like Erb’s Palsy or another life-altering injury from shoulder dystocia, you should speak to a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options. Every doctor has to perform their duties under a standard of care. When your child suffers a permanent injury from shoulder dystocia, it may have been caused by your doctor or nurse-midwife performing their duties below the standard of care. This can provide grounds for a medical malpractice claim.

Our firm has experience handling shoulder dystocia injury cases. In fact, our firm secured a $2.3 million jury verdict for a child who suffered permanent nerve damage from shoulder dystocia.

For more information about shoulder dystocia injuries, check out this article which discusses brachial plexus injuries.