Seattle Shoulder Dystocia Attorneys

What is Shoulder Dystocia and Who Can Be Held Accountable for It?

Shoulder dystocia is a type of birth injury that occurs when one or both of the infant's shoulders become lodged against the pelvic bone of the mother. Shoulder dystocia is a very rare injury, but it can happen and when it does, immediate action is required to ensure that the life of the baby doesn't become endangered. Physicians, obstetricians, and midwives are trained to follow standards or care when dealing with a shoulder dystocia. When shoulder dystocia occurs, even if the effects aren't apparent right away, it's important to contact a Seattle birth injury attorney, especially if you think you'll be taking the case to court.

Injuries Caused by Shoulder Dystocia

When the infant's shoulders get lodged against the mother's pelvic bone, the infant is wedged inside the birth canal, and often no amount of pushing by the mother will result in the safe delivery of the baby. This can cause a number of problems to both mother and baby. Some of the most common injuries sustained by infants are:

Complications suffered by the mother after or during shoulder dystocia are:

  • Damage to the cervix, rectum, or vagina including tearing or bruising
  • Rupture of the uterus or bruising to the bladder
  • Hemorrhaging

Often, injuries sustained from shoulder dystocia will clear up on their own or with relatively little treatment within a year. However, there are even rarer cases of children who have experienced shoulder dystocia that experience permanent paralysis from the trauma. When the infant is deprived of oxygen for long periods of time, this can also cause brain damage, which can also be permanent. In the worst cases of shoulder dystocia, death of the infant can also be a consequence.

Erb's Palsy is another condition that can be a consequence of shoulder dystocia. Erb's Palsy is a condition in which the nerves in the infant's arms and spinal cord are damaged, resulting in little or no movement in the arms, hands, and fingers. While this condition usually only lasts a few months, it can become a permanent disability. The brachial plexus is a location on baby's shoulder where a network of nerves branches from the spine down the arm. The nerves of the brachial plexus can be irritated, ruptured, or torn if a shoulder dystocia is not promptly recognized and treated within the standard of care.

Causes of Shoulder Dystocia

There may be many factors at play that contributed to shoulder dystocia during delivery. Healthcare providers are trained to recognize and prepare for indications that a shoulder dystocia may occur. Some reasons for concern by the doctor or midwife are:

  • Obesity in the mother
  • Diabetes in the mother, including gestational diabetes
  • Multiple births
  • Prior difficulty during labor and delivery in previous pregnancy
  • Shoulder dystocia has occurred in previous births
  • Small stature or abnormal pelvic structure on the part of the mother
  • Particularly large birth weight of the baby (estimated by ultrasound)
  • The baby is at term or over-due (39 weeks of correctly estimated gestation or more)

Unfortunately, shoulder dystocia can be is one of those things that "just happens" at the time of delivery, and there is sometimes no way to predict or prevent it beforehand. However, mothers who are at increased risk for experiencing shoulder dystocia during delivery (such as having experienced it before), might want to speak to their doctor or midwife about having a possible Caesarean delivery.

Shoulder Dystocia and Medical Malpractice

Just because there is no way to predict or prevent shoulder dystocia doesn't mean that the doctor or midwives can't take any blame and be held responsible in these cases. If doctors and other healthcare professionals don't act in a proper manner, diagnose the condition right away, and/or don't provide proper treatment, the results can be tragic. When this is the case, the parents of the child can file a claim for medical malpractice and this particular birth injury.

If you or a loved one have given birth, experienced shoulder dystocia, and that conditions caused other injury, call us at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. today. We are the experienced and compassionate personal injury lawyers with medical malpractice experience. Call us at (888) 228-3860 today or visit our website to speak with a live representative. We know how devastating birth injuries can be, and we want to help you fight your case.

Additional Information

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Written by Joseph Pendergast, this book is designed to help people who have suffered a personal injury understand their rights and the steps to take to be sure they get the compensation they deserve.

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555 South Renton Village Pl. Suite 640
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