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Shoulder dystocia: its risk factors and complications

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2019 | Birth Injury

Expectant mothers in Iowa should be aware of the various birth injuries that might be incurred, such as shoulder dystocia. This occurs during a vaginal delivery when the baby’s shoulders become stuck in the mother’s body (dystocia means difficult or slow labor or birth). Health care providers usually cannot predict this condition, but there are several factors that heighten the risk for it.

Health conditions in the mother like obesity and diabetes can play a role. Another factor is a woman being pregnant with more than one baby. Having one’s labor induced, receiving an epidural (a pain medicine) during labor and giving birth after the baby’s due date will also raise the risk of shoulder dystocia. If the baby is large, doctors may recommend a C-section. However, it should be noted that in most cases of shoulder dystocia, the babies have a normal weight.

Normally, shoulder dystocia will not lead to permanent damage. Complications may arise, though, such as injuries to the baby’s shoulder, arms or hand. While this may lead to shaking or paralysis, it is temporary most of the time and lasts between 6 and 12 months. The mother may experience bleeding after birth as well. The rarest but most serious complication is for oxygen to be cut off from the baby’s brain. This could cause brain damage or death.

Shoulder dystocia may occur even when no risk factors are present. However, if it’s clear that a doctor’s negligence directly or indirectly caused the injury, there will be good grounds for a birth injury case. The family will want to have a lawyer evaluate the case before moving forward. An attorney could also request an inquiry with the local medical board and hire third parties to conduct his or her own investigation. The family can leave all settlement negotiations to their lawyer.


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