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What kinds of birth injuries result from shoulder dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a complication that occurs most often with larger babies. It happens in anywhere from 5 to 9 percent of babies who weigh over nine pounds at birth. It can occur in smaller babies, but not as commonly. Just 1 percent of six-pound newborns experience shoulder dystocia.

Shoulder dystocia occurs as the baby moves into the birth canal if the shoulders become trapped behind the pelvic bone of the mother. It will cause the delivery to stall once the baby's head is out.

The complications for the baby from shoulder dystocia are usually the result of the procedures taken during the delivery to free the baby, such as using a vacuum or forceps. They are rare but can be serious. These include collarbone and arm fractures and nerve injuries and breaks.

There are potential complications for the mother as well. These include pelvic injuries such as tears in the uterus or perineum.

Besides the size of the baby, there are other risk factors that expectant mothers and their doctors need to be aware of that could increase the odds of shoulder dystocia. For example, women who have gestational diabetes are at greater risk. So are women who have had this occur previously in childbirth. When a baby is past the due date, it may also be more likely to occur.

Shoulder dystocia does not have to result in these complications if the doctor handles the delivery properly. He or she may instruct the mother to move into a position to more easily dislodge the baby. All maneuvers by the doctor to deliver the baby must be done carefully.

Women can help reduce the risk of shoulder dystocia by keeping their weight gain during pregnancy within the recommended guidelines. Ultimately, however, it is the physician and team delivering the baby who are responsible for doing so safely. When they fail to do that, and injury to the baby and/or the mother results, they can and should be held legally and financially responsible. Florida attorneys with experience dealing with birth injury cases know what to look for in examining the records of the birth to help prove that the injury could have been prevented.

Source: What to Expect, "Shoulder Dystocia During Pregnancy" Sep. 23, 2014

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