Shoulder dystocia, a birth injury, is one of the most dangerous
complications of vaginal delivery encountered by the obstetrician.
To avoid shoulder dystocia, all obstetricians must be familiar with
the maneuvers used to effect delivery of impacted shoulders and must
be prepared to institute these maneuvers immediately in a crisis
Complications of Shoulder Dystocia
Shoulder dystocia is a birthing complication in which the fetus’
shoulders are too large for the birth canal and subsequently become
trapped behind the pubic bone after the delivery of the head.
Complications from shoulder dystocia can cause a range of injuries
to occur, such as a broken arm or clavicle, and strain of the nerves
traveling through the neck – a condition doctors call Brachioplexus
Palsy. Another complication of shoulder dystocia is Erb’s Palsy.
Warning Signs of Shoulder Dystocia
In many cases, doctors can anticipate and prevent this condition by
watching for early warning signs of shoulder dystocia such as
gestational diabetes, obesity in the mother or excessive weight gain
during the pregnancy. Expectant mothers with a small pelvis, those
who’ve previously given birth to a large baby, and those in
post-term pregnancy are also at risk of having a child with shoulder
In most instances, even if unforeseen complications arise, your
doctor should be familiar with the methods necessary to ensure a
healthy delivery, and prevent shoulder dystocia. Despite the medical
community’s efforts to develop methods to ensure safe deliveries, 3
in 1000 births suffer an injury to the brachial plexus as a result
of a shoulder dystocia. In many shoulder dystocia cases, medical
negligence is to blame.
Shoulder Dystocia and Medical Negligence
Examples of medical negligence responsible for shoulder dystocia
Failure to obtain a proper obstetrical history.
Failure to check for or manage diabetes during pregnancy
Failure to manage excessive weight gain during maternity
Failure to assign qualified personnel to the delivery room
Failure to offer the option of cesarean section
Failure to manage shoulder dystocia
Exerting pressure on the abdomen during birth, which actually
worsens shoulder dystocia
Exerting excessive force or traction on the head during delivery
Improper use of forceps or vacuum extractors
Treatment of Shoulder Dystocia
Some shoulder dystocia injuries heal on their own and many children
improve or recover by 3-4 months of age. More severe shoulder
dystocia cases improve slowly over 18-21 months and by two years any
recovery that will occur should have occurred. Treatment avenues
include physical and occupational therapy and in some cases,
If your newborn suffered shoulder dystocia resulting in Erb’s Palsy
or an injury to their Brachial Plexus during birth and you would
like to know more about your legal rights, contact the Law Offices
of Jeffrey H. Rasansky.
Contact us by
Email or call us today at (401) 788-0600 to speak with a
someone from our firm..