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Mother givng birth

Shoulder Dystocia is the nightmare of obstetricians,” the authors of an article in the Journal of Prenatal Medicine observe. Why? “Shoulder dystocia is one of the most litigated cause in obstetrics,” they explain, “because it is frequently associated with permanent birth-related injuries and mother complications.”

In plain English, shoulder dystocia is a disaster that can occur while a baby is being delivered. The word comes from Greek: “dys”, means “difficult or painful”, and “tokos” means birth. The reasons for the difficulty?

  • the baby is abnormally large
  • the mother’s pelvis is unusually small
  • due to a former injury or tumor, the shape of the birth canal is distorted
  • the fetus is not normally positioned in the womb

For one or more of these reasons, the baby’s head comes out of the mother’s vagina, but the rest of its body gets stuck. And what the medical professionals do next – and how quickly (within 60 seconds at most!) – can make the difference between a successful delivery and severe and even lifelong damage to the newborn child.

Since it’s absolutely vital that the newborn receive sufficient oxygen circulation to its body and organs, when the baby’s head is out of the birth canal while its shoulder is stuck, the oxygen flow in the umbilical cord is blocked, often with terrible results.

In the baby’s shoulder is the brachial plexus, a group of nerve fibers that run from the spine, through the neck, and into the arms. Those very nerve fibers can be over-stretched by:

  • the doctor’s using too much force in pulling the baby out of the birth canal
  • the use of forceps
  • the use of vacuum extraction tools

Overstretching of the brachial plexus can cause awful damage to the baby’s body, including:

  • arm bone fractures
  • loss of movement and sensation in the arm
  • paralysis
  • permanent disfigurement

So, when there is a personal injury lawsuit brought against a hospital, a midwife, or a doctor, just what are the allegations?  What should the practitioner have done or not done?

  1. He/she should have been able to predict trouble (based on the mother’s health, the position and size of the baby, etc., and recommended an elective cesarean section be performed.
  2. He/she pulled too hard (either by hand or with forceps) and did not follow standard procedure.
  3. He/she was not alert enough and therefore did not react quickly enough to the emergency.

An Indiana personal injury attorney experienced in medical malpractice issues can make the difference in whether the family is compensated for a birth-related injury.  While nothing can take away the nightmare of the injury itself, recovery can help avoid adding the insult of unbearable financial disaster for the family!

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