Valenzuela Law Firm, PA | Trial Attorney
Attorney Henry E. Valenzuela

How does shoulder dystocia impact labor and delivery?

On Behalf of | Dec 2, 2023 | Medical Malpractice

Shoulder dystocia occurs when a baby’s shoulders get stuck in the mother’s pelvis during delivery. It’s more common when the baby is larger, or the woman’s pelvis is smaller. 

The likelihood of having to deal with shoulder dystocia during delivery depends mainly on the baby’s birth weight. A baby larger than 8 pounds, 13 ounces, has a 5 to 9% chance of shoulder dystocia. Babies that are 5 pounds, 8 ounces to 8 pounds, 13 ounces are .6 to 1.4% likely to have shoulder dystocia.

What are the signs of shoulder dystocia?

There isn’t any way to predict when shoulder dystocia will occur. Typically, the doctor delivering the baby will only know what’s happening when the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck. This is usually discovered when the delivery team sees the turtle sign, which means the baby is emerging and moving back up, similar to what a turtle’s head does in its shell.

What happens if shoulder dystocia isn’t managed?

Shoulder dystocia requires a complete medical team to manage through precise maneuvers. The baby may end up with a clavicle fracture. Sometimes, the baby will be maneuvered back into the uterus so a C-section can be performed. 

The mother can suffer considerably because of shoulder dystocia. Postpartum hemorrhage, perineal tearing, uterine rupture and separation of the pubic bones are all possible. 

The baby may suffer from brachial plexus palsy because of nerve damage in the shoulder and neck region. A compressed umbilical cord is also possible. This can lead to brain injuries or death. 

Mothers and babies who deal with shoulder dystocia can have serious health consequences. They may opt to pursue a compensation claim when malpractice is a factor. This must be filed within the time limit set by Florida law, so you can’t waste time. 

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