Shoulder dystocia is a frightening and serious complication that can occur during labor or birth, in which the head of the fetus has been cleared but the shoulders are stuck on the way through the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia can harm both mother and baby, with the mother possibly suffering from hemorrhaging and uterine rupture. Even experienced doctors sometimes react incorrectly out of panic when the problem occurs, causing harm to the child and mother.
As a patient, you have the right to expect a high standard of care from your nurses and your physician or midwife during the birth of your child. However, medical professionals sometimes fail to provide mothers and their unborn or newborn baby with a professional standard of care during birth. As a result, serious injuries or even death can result. The experienced Ohio shoulder dystocia lawyers at The Becker Law Firm have successfully obtained compensation for families when doctors or other medical professionals failed to provide adequate care at birth. We want to help you, too.
Contact us online or call (440) 252-4399 for a free consultation with one of our birth injury attorneys in Ohio.
Shoulder Dystocia Injuries Are Preventable
Doctors encountering a shoulder dystocia must react quickly. The baby’s shoulder is lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone but the head is through the birth canal. This partial delivery does not stop the powerful contractions, which put pressure on the baby (often on the baby’s neck) and the umbilical cord while the baby is stuck. If the baby is not delivered in the next few minutes, lack of oxygen to the brain will begin to cause permanent injuries.
There are a series of maneuvers that obstetricians and the delivery team must perform when they encounter a shoulder dystocia:
- McRoberts Maneuver: bending the mother’s legs up to her chest
- Suprapubic Pressure: pushing down on the mother’s stomach at a forty-five-degree angle
- Woods/Rubens Maneuver: rotating the baby from inside the birth canal
- Episiotomy: surgically cutting the area between the vagina and the anus to give the baby more room for delivery
- Zavenelli Maneuver: pushing the baby back into the vagina and performing a cesarean section
- Symphysiotomy: surgically cutting the mother’s pubic bone to allow room for the baby’s shoulder to come through
Doctors learn about these procedures in medical school and they are continually refreshed in ongoing medical education seminars. With proper attention, children should not have shoulder dystocia injuries.
Shoulder Dystocia Injuries
Shoulder dystocia leads to brachial plexus injuries. The brachial plexus is a complex set of important nerves that exit the spinal cord at the level of the neck, extend through the shoulder into the armpit, and go down the arm and into the fingertips. The brachial plexus nerve network covers the C5-T1 region of the neck. There is a brachial plexus on each side of the neck.
There are four types of injuries caused by shoulder dystocia:
- Erb’s Palsy: The first type of brachial plexus injury, Erb’s palsy is an injury to the upper nerves that lead from the spinal cord. Children with Erb’s palsy have full or partial paralysis of the arm.
- Klumpke’s Palsy: The second type of brachial plexus injury, Klumpke’s palsy is an injury to the lower nerves that lead from the spinal cord. Children with Klumpke’s palsy have paralyzed forearms and hands.
- Developmental Delays: When a shoulder dystocia causes prolonged lack of oxygen, a child may lose important brain cells and may suffer from developmental delays.
- Cerebral Palsy: Lack of oxygen caused by shoulder dystocia can also cause cerebral palsy.
Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuits
Obstetricians and hospitals vigorously defend shoulder dystocia lawsuits, but our Ohio shoulder dystocia lawyers know what to look for in these types of cases. We understand the mechanics of shoulder dystocia maneuvers (none of which requires touching the baby’s head) that must be adhered to during delivery for doctors to meet the standard of care.
Important evidence to use at trial includes:
- Medical records from labor and delivery
- Pictures/video taken by family members
- Testimony from friends and family members who saw how the doctors and nurses reacted to the shoulder dystocia emergency
In particular, anything that the doctors and nurses said during the delivery can be important to show that they understood the emergency and to show how they dealt with it.