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Could your child’s shoulder dystocia have been prevented?

Childbirth is a natural process, but it can also be traumatic for both mother and child. It can result in serious birth injuries, including many of which are preventable such as shoulder dystocia. The prenatal care that a patient receives is key to preventing a newborn from suffering from this type of birth injury and others.

How does shoulder dystocia occur?

The natural childbirth process involves a fetus moving from its mother’s uterus through her pelvis and finally into the birth canal. In some cases, the fetus’s shoulder blades may become trapped inside the mother’s pelvis, damaging their brachial plexus nerves. These nerves travel the neck down the baby’s arm.

Shoulder dystocia injuries that occur during childbirth can leave the baby with a broken arm or collarbone that recovers in due time. The tearing of the brachial plexus nerve is often permanent. It can leave a child with lingering functional issues.

March of Dimes data shows that shoulder dystocia occurs in approximately 3% of all childbirths in the U.S.

Is shoulder dystocia preventable?

Shoulder dystocia is generally preventable. Doctors should take note of certain risk factors when offering prenatal care that may leave babies more vulnerable to suffering shoulder dystocia. Those include:

  • An overweight mother
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancies with multiples
  • Macrosomia, or fetal birthweight over eight pounds

The use of assistive birthing tools during a vaginal childbirth increases a fetus’s risk of suffering a shoulder dystocia injury. Thus, doctors opt to deliver babies via C-section when these presenting concerns are a factor.

There are some cases in which pregnant mothers don’t receive adequate prenatal care. Doctors may note during the natural childbirth process that shoulder dystocia is likely. Doctors may reposition both mom and baby during childbirth to avoid potential injury. However, there are also dangers associated with too much repositioning.

All parents want the best for their children. If a doctor’s failure to diagnose one of the conditions puts babies at risk for shoulder dystocia, then you might have a valid reason to file a malpractice lawsuit.