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Are shoulder dystocia birth injuries preventable?

On Behalf of | Jul 22, 2021 | Birth Injuries

Countless birth injuries happen every year here in the U.S. While you might think that most of them are accidental, they’re not.

Shoulder dystocia and many other birth injuries are completely preventable. Doctors can reduce pregnant mothers’ risk of having a birth injury by closely monitoring them. This is often the case with shoulder dystocia.

What causes shoulder dystocia?

During childbirth, the fetus first passes through its mother’s pelvis into the birth canal. March of Dimes data shows that at least 3% of childbirth cases result in at least one of the fetus’ shoulder blades becoming stuck within the mother’s pelvis. This phenomenon is called shoulder dystocia.

Is there anything doctors can do to prevent shoulder dystocia?

There are certain risk factors for shoulder dystocia, including:

  • Moms carrying multiples
  • Gestational diabetes
  • An overweight mom
  • Macrosomia, which is a baby weighing over eight pounds

Increased monitoring can help doctors determine whether one of the above-referenced factors is a concern. All of these may warrant an obstetrician delivering a baby via Cesarian section (C-section).

Doctors who induce labor or use assistive birthing tools such as an epidural or vacuum put their patients at increased risk of suffering a shoulder dystocia injury.

There are some measures doctors can take during the childbirth process to minimize the risk of shoulder dystocia. An attempt to reposition both the fetus and mom may make the childbirth process more seamless. Too much repositioning can have adverse effects for mom and baby, even if they eventually deliver the baby via C-section instead of through the birth canal.

Shoulder dystocia carries with it long-term complications

Children who suffer shoulder dystocia during the childbirth process are often left with collarbone or arm fractures. They may also end up with permanent brachial plexus nerves damage. This may run from the neck down into the arm, causing persistent functional impairments.

Do you have options if your childbirth didn’t turn out as planned?

Your child’s quality of life is likely to be starkly different from how you envisioned it if they suffer a shoulder dystocia injury. They may require surgery to repair damage and need a lifetime of therapy to maintain their affected limb’s optimal functionality. Fortunately, there are medical malpractice laws on the books here in New York. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with them.