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Shoulder Dystocia & Resulting Birth Injuries Lawyer

sleeping baby with head on shoulderOne of the more frightening experiences that a mother can have is a “difficult childbirth,” which is the common name for what happens when a baby presents with shoulder dystocia. In the case of a shoulder dystocia, the baby’s head is delivered but the shoulder gets stuck inside the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia occurs in under 10% of births but the effects can be devastating.

If your child suffered harm resulting from mismanagement of shoulder dystocia, New York birth injury lawyers of Edelman, Krasin & Jaye can review your case and determine if you have a claim for damages.

Why shoulder dystocia occurs

Shoulder dystocia is a kind of obstruction that can occur during labor. The condition can make labor more complicated and must be carefully monitored. If not addressed correctly and promptly, it can lead to birth trauma resulting in slow and shallow breathing, decreased blood and oxygen flow to the brain, brachial plexus injuries which can lead to paralysis or lack of control or feeling in the arms or hands, or even fetal death.

Birth trauma resulting from shoulder dystocia

Shoulder dystocia can lead to a prolonged labor that harms both the mother and the child.

Effects to the newborn can include:

  • Nerve damage to the shoulder, arms and hand which can cause shaking or paralysis known as Erb’s Palsy
  • A broken arm
  • Broken collarbone
  • Lack of oxygen, which can cause brain damage and even death

Complications to the mother can include:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Tearing in the vaginal and surrounding areas
  • Bruises to the bladder

When shoulder dystocia occurs during childbirth, doctors may use forceps or vacuum extraction to aid in the delivery.

Signs of shoulder dystocia

Most cases of shoulder dystocia happen without warning. However, there are signs that should put medical staff on alert:

  • Large baby
  • “Turtle” movements from the baby- the baby’s head appears and retracts during birth as the shoulder gets stuck and pulls the baby back into the mother’s body
  • Maternal obesity

Shoulder dystocia occurs in about 1% of births when the baby is of a normal weight but in up to 10% of babies who have a higher birth weight.

Hospital staff should be looking for signs of shoulder dystocia when the mother has had gestational diabetes since this often leads to a large baby. When there are signs that a mother is carrying a large baby, or she has a history of delivering large babies, doctors should consider performing an ultrasound before delivery to check the baby’s weight. If the baby is more than 8.5 pounds the doctor and mother can discuss the option of a C-section to avoid the trauma of a difficult birth.

Birth injuries can be prevented

If a baby is showing signs of shoulder dystocia, medical staff can prevent birth trauma in a few ways:

  • Applying pressure to the mother’s belly
  • Moving the mother to an “all fours” position
  • Rolling the mother’s thighs up to her belly
  • Rotating the baby in the birth canal
  • Performing an episiotomy
  • Performing a C-section

New York shoulder dystocia cases

New York courts have recognized the claims of babies injured by medical malpractice related to shoulder dystocia and awarded them compensation for their injuries. Notably, in November 2013, the New York appellate court affirmed a jury verdict awarding the child $3.15 million, which includes $2 million for pain and suffering. In that case, the doctor overlooked clues that the baby, who was born weighing over 9 pounds, would be large. The baby developed Erb’s Palsy and required 5 separate surgeries that did not fully restore her use of her arm. Medical experts agreed that her condition would not improve any further.

Compensation available in birth trauma cases

Victims of medical negligence, including failure to evaluate and respond to a dangerous complication like shoulder dystocia, may be entitled to compensation.

To recover compensation, a medical malpractice victim must be able to prove:

  • The doctor or nurse owed the victim a duty of care – this is a pretty easy element to prove when there is a doctor-patient relationship between the parties
  • The medical professional breached the duty of care – some jurisdictions require that the injured party provide a sworn statement from another doctor stating that the defendant breached the standard of care
  • The patient was injured by the breach of the standard of care
  • The damages that the victim claims are related to the injury caused by the breach

Birth injury lawyers New York

If you believe your child was injured during labor or delivery by mistakes by medical professionals, you may have a valid claim for recovery. NY medical malpractice attorneys at Edelman, Krasin & Jaye serve clients in all New York boroughs and Long Island with compassion and dedication.

Our lawyers work with experts to help prove your case. An initial consultation is free and no-obligation. We can work with you to determine whether you should file a birth injury lawsuit. You will not pay any legal fees up front – we only get paid when we recover for you.

  1. March of Dimes, Pregnancy Complications, http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/shoulder-dystocia.aspx
  2. American Family Physician, Shoulder Dystocia, http://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0401/p1707.html
  3. New York State Law Reporting Bureau, Skelly-Hand v. Lizardi, http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_07895.htm