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Understanding the effects of shoulder dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury that can cause serious problems for a mother and her child. During labor and delivery, shoulder dystocia happens when one or both of a baby’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis. It is estimated to occur in .2 to 3% of births in New York and around the country, and the condition can result in a multitude of injuries for both baby and mother.

Although it is difficult to predict a shoulder dystocia birth injury, there are risk factors that expectant mothers should be aware of. These include obesity, preexisting or gestational diabetes, a a pregnancy with twins or other multiples, a shoulder dystocia injury in a previous pregnancy, or a baby who weighs more than 8 pounds 13 ounces.

There are other factors during labor and delivery that can contribute to shoulder dystocia. Receiving an epidural and drugs that induce labor can increase the risk of injury. Short or excessively long pushing sessions during delivery are also considered risk factors as well as delivery where a doctor has to assist the birth with tools, such as forceps or a vacuum.

While most mothers and babies recover fully, there are serious conditions that can occur from injuries related to shoulder dystocia. For the baby, problems range from broken bones to brain damage or death from a lack of oxygen. The mother can suffer from excessive bleeding, tearing during birth and uterine rupture.

If doctors identify risk factors before labor and delivery, they can make preparations to help prevent shoulder dystocia, such as having special equipment ready or scheduling a C-section. If the risk for shoulder dystocia is identified during labor and delivery, the doctor will try to position the mother in ways to prevent the injury.

Birth injuries can take a tremendous emotional and financial toll on a family. If the injury is caused by the negligent behavior of a health care provider, the family could be entitled to financial compensation. An experienced medical malpractice attorney may work to defend the rights for both an injured child and the mother.