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Baltimore Dystocia Injury Attorney

Dystocia is a medical term used to describe a difficult birth. Shoulder dystocia is a complication that can happen once the baby’s head has exited the birth canal and the shoulders are still inside the pelvis of the laboring woman. How the doctor proceeds at this point can mean the difference between a healthy birth or an injured baby and mother. The attorneys at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy can help evaluate whether medical care received at the time of birth may have been a contributing factor to injuries sustained from shoulder dystocia.

The Birth Process

In an uncomplicated birth, the baby moves out of the uterus, through the cervix, and down the birth canal. If all is going smoothly, the baby is positioned so the head will exit the mother’s body first. Once the head emerges, the baby’s body rotates sideways, so the shoulder and body pass easily through the pelvis.

Causes of Shoulder Dystocia

One or both shoulders of the infant can become lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone. This presents as the baby being “stuck.” Most often it’s the front (anterior) shoulder that is stuck. It’s also possible for the back (posterior) shoulder to become wedged. This situation slows the process of labor considerably and is risky for the infant and the mother. Although shoulder dystocia can’t be completely predicted, there are some risk factors that increase the possibility. A well-trained physician will recognize that one or more of the following could be red-flags:

  • Maternal obesity
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Small or abnormal pelvis
  • Multiple birth (twins or more)
  • Induced labor
  • Overdue pregnancy
  • Shoulder dystocia in prior births
  • Epidural during labor
  • Forceps, vacuum extractor or other devices

Shoulder dystocia can also occur when no risk factors are present. Since all births carry the possibility of shoulder dystocia, it’s helpful if the doctor discusses the possibility before labor begins.

Injuries Caused by Shoulder Dystocia

When an infant’s shoulders are stuck in the mother’s birth canal, the force of the mother’s body attempting to push the baby out can cause serious injury to the child and to the mother. This is one of the reasons it’s important for the doctor to communicate effectively with the mother during labor, so they can work together as a team to free the baby.

Infant Injuries

  • Broken collarbone or arm
  • Nerve damage to hand, arm, or shoulder (brachial plexus injury)
  • Brain damage due to oxygen deprivation (birth asphyxia)
  • Paralysis or numbness of arm (Erb’s palsy)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Death from lack of oxygen

Maternal Injuries

  • Hemorrhage
  • Bruising of the bladder
  • Ruptured uterus
  • Vaginal tearing
  • Rectal tearing
  • Cervical tearing

Medical Error

Sometimes shoulder dystocia injuries are the result of medical negligence. The risk factor increases greatly when a vacuum extractor or forceps are used as part of the delivery process. This is called an operative vaginal birth. Injury can also happen as the result of inexperience, poor training, or a doctor who doesn’t follow accepted standards of care.

Medical professionals such as doctors and nurses are generally good people who want to help. They are also human, and humans are fallible. They make mistakes. When a doctor makes a mistake, lives can be forever altered or lost.

If you or your baby are suffering the consequences of an injury that may be due to shoulder dystocia, it’s important to find out soon if it’s the result of medical negligence. Birth injuries are not only painful physically, emotionally, and psychologically, they are also expensive. Medical bills and specialized care, sometimes for life, adds up quickly. The attorneys at Murphy, Falcon & Murphy have been fighting for the most vulnerable members of society since 1948. Call to find out how we can help you, too.