Shoulder Dystocia During Birth: How Your Doctor Should and Should Not Treat This Condition

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Shoulder Dystocia During Birth How Your Doctor Should and Should Not Treat This ConditionThe birth of a child should be one of the happiest days of a parent’s life. When the birth is marred by a complication like shoulder dystocia, parents may be left mourning an injury to their child or the death of their infant instead.

Shoulder dystocia is an obstetrical emergency which requires immediate treatment. When a doctor fails to identify this complication, or fails to correctly treat the problem, serious injury or death can result. If your infant was injured by shoulder dystocia during birth, you may have options to pursue compensation for your pain and expenses.

What Is Shoulder Dystocia?

During a normal vaginal birth, a baby should proceed head first down the birth canal. The baby should be facing towards the mother’s back, and may need to be rotated by the doctor into position. Usually, after the baby’s head emerges, his or her body will turn sideways, allowing the baby to pass through the mother’s pelvis.

With shoulder dystocia, the baby’s body does not rotate correctly, and the baby’s shoulder can become lodged behind the mother’s public bone. When this happens, the baby’s head may emerge from and then re-enter the mother’s vagina, which is known as the turtle sign.

Shoulder dystocia is a serious emergency because the baby cannot get enough oxygen while its shoulder is stuck. Since the baby’s head has not fully emerged from the birth canal, he or she cannot breathe enough oxygen to survive. This is especially true because the baby’s lungs have not yet expanded before the

Treating Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia occurs in about two out of every 100 births. When a baby presents with shoulder dystocia, it is imperative to deliver the baby immediately. In order for this to occur, obstetric nurses and doctors need to be trained in identifying the signs and risk factors for shoulder dystocia as well as corrective treatments which may save the infant’s life.

Obstetrical professionals like doctors and nurses uses several mnemonic devices to remember the steps they should take when a baby presents with shoulder dystocia. For example, the acronym ALARMER stands for:

A:        Ask for help

L:         Leg hyperflexion (McRobert’s Maneuver)

A:        Anterior shoulder disimpaction (suprapubic pressure)

R:        Rubin maneuver

M:        Manual delivery of posterior arm

E:         Episiotomy

R:        Roll over on all fours

All of these maneuvers can help deliver the baby without emergency surgical means. In addition, all of the helpful mnemonics begin with telling the nurse or doctor to ask for help. Delay in treating shoulder dystocia can lead to serious injury or death.

There are also several types of maneuvers which the obstetrical staff should not perform. For example, it can cause serious injury to the infant if a nurse or doctor presses on the top of a woman’s stomach to try and force the baby out (fundal pressure). In comparison, suprapubic pressure, which can push the baby down and around the pelvic bone, may dislodge the infant’s shoulder. In addition, it is important for the doctor or nurses not to pull hard on the infant’s head or arms, which can injure the baby’s brachial plexus nerves and cause Erb’s palsy.

Finally, it is extremely important for the obstetrical staff to prepare for emergency measures after the birth is successful. The infant may be injured by the birthing process, and the mother will likely suffer serious hemorrhages. If any of these conditions are left untreated, serious injuries may result.

Help After Birth Injuries

Dealing with an injury to your newborn is a traumatic and terrifying experience. While shoulder dystocia during birth is not completely preventable, it can be successfully managed by an experienced obstetrician.

When your obstetrician fails to recognize or treat your baby’s shoulder dystocia in a timely manner, you may have a case for medical malpractice. At the Trial Law Offices of Bradley I. Kramer, M.D., Esq., we work to help the victims of birth injuries and fight to get them justice. If you or your loved one was injured as a result of someone else’s carelessness or wrongdoing, we can help you file a lawsuit seeking the damages you need to recover.

For a free consultation with a Los Angeles birth injury lawyer, call (310) 289-2600 or use our online contact form to have your case reviewed today.

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