Michigan Shoulder Dystocia Lawyer
Shoulder dystocia is a very serious birth injury that can be caused by medical negligence during the birthing process. If your child suffered a birth injury, such as shoulder dystocia, cerebral palsy, or cephalohematoma, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact the Southfield medical malpractice attorneys at Lipton Law for your free, no-obligation consultation. Call our Southfield office today at 248-557-1688.
What Is Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia occurs during a vaginal delivery when the baby’s head is delivered, but the shoulders become stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone. Doctors should look for the “turtle sign” when the baby pulls their head back into the birth canal after it’s been delivered. This is a clear indication that there is an increased risk of shoulder dystocia occurring.
Doctors and nurses should act immediately when this happens so they can dislodge the baby’s shoulder and ensure the baby is delivered safely. The quicker doctors react to shoulder dystocia, the lower the risk factors are for injuries. This medical condition can affect both the mother and infant and leave the baby with permanent shoulder and arm injuries.
Is Shoulder Dystocia a Birth Injury?
Despite medical advancements, shoulder dystocia cannot be prevented in certain circumstances. During vaginal delivery, if the doctor’s pulls do not deliver the baby’s shoulders because one of the shoulders is stuck on the mother’s pubic bone, shoulder dystocia has occurred. If the doctor or other medical professional does not diagnose shoulder dystocia or diagnoses it too late, they may be guilty of medical malpractice.
How Common Is Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is a rare medical condition affecting two to three percent of all births. While this medical condition is uncommon, it often happens without warning during vaginal delivery. Since the methods to detect shoulder dystocia are almost non-existent, it makes it very hard to prevent. The only way to plan for shoulder dystocia is for the doctor to assess the pregnant mother’s current medical conditions, medical history, and fetal weight.
What Causes Shoulder Dystocia?
Fetal weight is one of the risk factors to consider when anticipating shoulder dystocia. The more the baby weighs, the higher the risk factors are that shoulder dystocia can occur. Studies show that for babies weighing more than eight pounds, the chances of shoulder dystocia increase, but it can also happen to infants with a birth weight between five to eight pounds, although their chances are smaller. Certain medical conditions can put the pregnant mother at risk for a shoulder dystocia delivery.
Shoulder Dystocia Risk Factors
Doctors should assess the pregnant mother’s risks for a shoulder dystocia delivery. When these risk factors are identified, doctors can be prepared for the possibility of the problem occurring at the time of delivery, reducing shoulder dystocia chances.
Pregnant women are at risk for their baby having shoulder dystocia when the:
- Baby is large (fetal macrosomia)
- Mother has diabetes
- Mother is pregnant with twins
- The mother is obese or severely overweight
- Delivery is after the baby’s original due date
- The mother has a history of babies being born with shoulder dystocia
Proper planning for the birth can eliminate the possibility of shoulder dystocia or diminish the chances of shoulder dystocia. Doctors can also be prepared if the mother is subject to one of the above risk factors by inducing labor early or planning for a Cesarean delivery.
Shoulder Dystocia Complications
When shoulder dystocia occurs, the mother and baby are at risk for injuries. If the doctor or medical provider performs an episiotomy on the mother to dislodge the baby’s shoulders, the mother could be at risk for nerve damage and significant bleeding (postpartum hemorrhage). Other injuries mothers can sustain during dislodging fetal shoulders include sphincter damage, bladder injury, bowel perforation, uterine rupture, or urethral injury.
Infants suffering from shoulder dystocia complications during birth are at risk of severe birth injuries. A brachial plexus injury is the most common injury that a baby can suffer from shoulder dystocia. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that begin at the neck and continue through the shoulders and fingers. As the doctor tries to dislodge the infant’s shoulders from underneath the mother’s pelvic bone, they may pull too hard, causing the brachial plexus to stretch, causing nerve injury and loss of movement in the shoulders, arms, or fingers. These injuries can cause permanent and severe damage to the baby. If the doctor caused brachial plexus injuries by pulling too hard, they might be liable for damages.
Shoulder dystocia deliveries can also cause infants to suffer from severe brain injuries, like cerebral palsy. When the baby is stuck in the birth canal, the umbilical cord can become wrapped around the infant, depriving them of oxygen. Brain injuries caused by a lack of oxygen can result in permanent neurological issues, including loss of muscle movement, difficulty speaking, swallowing, behavior, and cognition. Some injuries can even result in death.
How Is Shoulder Dystocia Diagnosed?
Doctors should be able to diagnose shoulder dystocia when the baby’s head is visible, but the body cannot be delivered. If at least one minute has passed after the baby’s head has emerged, but the body hasn’t, the doctor will need to take swift action to prevent any injuries affecting the fetus while in the birth canal. Due to those factors, shoulder dystocia occurs when medical intervention is required to deliver the baby successfully. Other signs to look for include face and chin delivery struggles and the turtle sign.
How Is Shoulder Dystocia Treated?
If shoulder dystocia has occurred, doctors and nurses will try several different shoulder dystocia maneuvers. They may use the HELPERR mnemonic tool:
H – Help: The doctor will call for help. This can be more labor and delivery nurses, an anesthesiologist, a neonatologist, or extra equipment.
E – Evaluate for episiotomy: The doctor will evaluate if an episiotomy is required to assist with delivery. This will only happen if they need to make room for rotation maneuvers by widening the opening of the vagina.
L – Legs: The doctor may perform the McRoberts maneuver. The McRoberts maneuver is when the mother presses her thighs against her belly to help flatten and rotate the pelvis.
P – Pressure: The doctor may use suprapubic pressure. Using suprapubic pressure, the doctor will press on the mother’s lower belly above the pubic bone. This puts pressure on the baby’s shoulders in an attempt to rotate and deliver.
E – Enter maneuvers: The doctor may attempt to reach into the vagina and try to turn the baby.
R – Remove the posterior arm: The doctor may try the Jacquemier’s maneuver. This maneuver removes one of the baby’s arms from the birth canal, which might make it easier for the baby’s shoulders to pass through.
R – Roll the patient: The doctor may attempt the Gaskin maneuver. With the Gaskin maneuver, the mother will turn over on her hands and knees to get into a new position.
With severe shoulder dystocia cases, the doctor may attempt the following methods:
- Clavicle fracture: The doctor will break the baby’s collarbone to release their shoulders.
- Zavanelli maneuver: The doctor will push the baby’s head back into the uterus and perform a Cesarean delivery.
- Symphysiotomy: The doctor will create an incision between the pelvic bones to enlarge the pelvic opening.
Is Shoulder Dystocia Considered Medical Malpractice?
In order to have a case for medical malpractice from shoulder dystocia, you must be able to prove that you or the baby were severely and permanently injured during childbirth. You must also prove that the doctor failed to meet the average standards of care, causing excessive, preventable, and unnecessary injuries. If your doctor used incorrect methods to remove the baby’s shoulder during the vaginal delivery or did not act quickly enough, causing more damage, there is the possibility that you could have a medical malpractice case.
What Is Needed to Prove Your Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuit?
Before pursuing a medical malpractice case stating that medical negligence caused shoulder dystocia, causing injuries to you and/or your baby, you must provide your attorneys with proof. This proof can include prenatal and birth records. If the mother had risk factors that could have caused shoulder dystocia and proper precautions were not made, you could have a medical malpractice case. Prenatal records will show if the mother or baby was at risk for shoulder dystocia.
Compensation in a Shoulder Dystocia Lawsuit
Since injuries sustained from shoulder dystocia can be permanent and severe, the compensation can be substantial from a medical malpractice lawsuit. Damages that you could be entitled to include:
- Medical expenses associated with the injury
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages, if your child requires 24/7 care
- Loss of enjoyment of life
Contact a Michigan Birth Injury Lawyer at Lipton Law
Bringing a new life into the world is supposed to be a joyous occasion. When you or your baby is injured due to your doctor or medical professional’s negligence, it can be an extremely traumatic experience and result in life-altering injuries. While recovering damages from shoulder dystocia may not undo the damages done, it can ease the pain by helping pay for medical expenses and begin your new life with your newborn.
At Lipton Law, one of our experienced birth injury attorneys will ensure the negligent medical professional is held responsible. If your child suffered injuries from shoulder dystocia that caused cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injuries, or any other injury, you might have a medical malpractice case. Call our Michigan personal injury lawyers today at 248-557-1688 to schedule a free consultation.