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Shoulder dystocia: what it is, and what raises the risk for it

On Behalf of | Jul 31, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

Expectant mothers in New Mexico may wonder about the various complications that could arise during delivery. One of them is shoulder dystocia, which is where one or both of a baby’s shoulders becomes stuck in the mother’s pelvis. While this complication is relatively rare, affecting 0.2% to 0.3% of pregnancies, it should be well-known.

In most instances of shoulder dystocia, the infant is born safely, but other times, both the baby and mother suffer. The baby may experience a fractured collarbone or arm or incur damage to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that control movement in the arm and shoulder. Nerve damage can lead to weakness or paralysis in the arm. The baby may even be deprived of oxygen. The mother may bleed heavily and tear the perineum.

There are various risk factors that, if present, doctors would use to decide if an expectant mother would be better off undergoing a C-section. One is macrosomia, or an unusually large baby. If the baby is over 5,000 grams, or around 11 pounds, this can cause problems. Macrosomia is often linked with diabetes in the mother. If the mother is overweight, gained excessive weight during the pregnancy or is expected to give birth to twins or triplets, this also raises the risk for shoulder dystocia.

Many birth injuries can be prevented, but it depends on the doctors. If they fail to do something that another competent doctor in the same situation would have done, and if this was clearly the cause of the injury, then parents may be able to file a claim and be reimbursed for their losses. It might take a lawyer to build up the claim and negotiate with the other side, though.


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