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Shoulder Dystocia

baby foot in mother's handFew things can compare to that euphoric moment when you meet your child for the very first time after a long period of anticipation; so to be told that your baby’s delivery is stalled because of a complication called shoulder dystocia can be deeply disappointing. And, in cases where shoulder dystocia results in birth injuries to your child because of  malpractice, this news can be downright devastating.

The New Jersey birth injury lawyers of Eisbrouch & Marsh understand.  We have been helping victims of birth trauma and their families recoup at least some of what they have lost in the way of quality of life, medical bills, and other damages.

For more than 25 years, our experienced team of experts in the fields of law, medicine and insurance have been giving families affected by serious birth injuries a new lease on life.  If we cannot take your pain and suffering away, we can at least alleviate it.

Shoulder dystocia overview

Shoulder dystocia happens when a baby’s head emerges from the birth canal but his or her shoulders become stuck.  Such circumstances call for the delicate management of medical personnel who can make quick, wise decisions to deliver your baby safely.  Usually, doctors and nurses will rely on several special maneuvers to help the baby pass through the canal. If these fail, then forceps, vacuum extraction or a C-section may be needed.

Often, time is of the essence in determining next steps, and sadly, mistakes can happen.

In the absence of good management by competent medical professionals, shoulder dystocia can quickly turn ugly, leading to prolonged labor and serious and sometimes permanent injuries in newborns and/or mothers.

Complications in newborns due to mismanagement of shoulder dystocia can include:

  • Birth trauma (causing respiratory problems that in turn can deprive the brain of oxygen, contributing to brain damage or even death)
  • Brachial plexus injuries (damage to the nerves resulting in paralysis, reduced motor control and/or feeling in the arms or hands, or, even death)
  • Broken arm or collarbone

Complications to the mother can include:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Tearing in the vaginal and surrounding areas
  • Bruises to the bladder

Symptoms or possible indications of shoulder dystocia

Much of the time, shoulder dystocia is unpredictable, occurring without warning.  Still, there are warning signs to look for and questions to ask in any delivery, in order to prevent complications related to the mishandling of this condition.

These risk factors include:

  • Is the baby big?  Notably, shoulder dystocia occurs in as many as 10% of large babies, in contrast to only 1% of average weight babies.
  • Is the baby making “turtle” movements, pulling his/her head in and out of the birth canal because his/her shoulder won’t let him/her advance in the pushing stage?
  • Is the baby’s mother obese?
  • Does the baby’s mother have gestational diabetes?

In cases where a mother has a history of giving birth to large babies, doctors can perform an ultrasound before delivery for a more accurate read of the baby’s weight.  If the baby is more than 8.5 pounds, the doctor and mother can decide together there and then, before risking a potentially traumatic birth by vaginal delivery, whether a C-section would be more appropriate.

Appropriate medical protocol for handling shoulder dystocia

The prevention of birth trauma associated with shoulder dystocia may require one or more of the following measures:

  • Applying pressure to the belly
  • Moving the mother to an “all fours” position
  • Rolling the mother’s thighs up to her belly
  • Rotating the baby in the birth canal
  • Performing an episiotomy
  • Performing a C-section

New Jersey shoulder dystocia settlements

Courts in the greater New York area have been generous in awarding medical malpractice claims associated with shoulder dystocia. One Pennsylvania family received $4.2 million for the permanent brain injuries of their newborn in a mishandled case of shoulder dystocia brought on by gestational diabetes.

Another jury in New York gave $3.5 million in compensation to a baby girl who developed Erb’s Palsy and required five separate surgeries to restore the partial use of her arm.

If medical negligence has caused complications to either mother or child in a delivery where shoulder dystocia was at play, you and your family may be eligible to receive compensation.

The plaintiffs and their attorneys must demonstrate:

  • The doctor/nurse on duty breached the acceptable standards of care during your labor
  • You and/or your child consequently sustained injuries
  • The damages that were the direct result of this sub-par medical treatment

New Jersey birth injury attorneys

If your child suffered birth injuries from a mishandled case of shoulder dystocia, you won’t be able to know whether you have a legitimate medical malpractice claim until you consult a lawyer you can trust—the kind of lawyer you’ll need to secure generous compensation through filing a birth injury lawsuit.

Eisbrouch & Marsh, serving primarily the New Jersey area and all of New York’s five boroughs, will provide you with a complimentary consultation to assess your best course of action.  Call their offices today to set up your free appointment:  201-342-5545.

  1. James A. O’Leary, Shoulder Dystocia and Birth Injury: Prevention and Treatment,
  2. George D. Pozgar, Patient Care Case Law: Ethics, Regulation and Compliance,