Shoulder Dystocia and Birth Injuries: Facts You Should Know

Shoulder dystocia is a condition that occurs during labor and delivery when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck or lodged in the mother’s pelvis. In these cases, the child has a difficult time moving through the birth canal without assistance. Shoulder dystocia is considered an emergency and often triggers the need for a cesarean section (C-section). Research and data show that in the case of babies who are larger or weigh more than average, there is greater risk of shoulder dystocia.

What Birth Injuries Are Caused by Shoulder Dystocia?

When shoulder dystocia occurs, it is critical that the doctor or medical provider gets the baby out safely and quickly. When the provider is not able to get the baby out vaginally, he or she may call for an emergency C-section. Shoulder dystocia puts the mother and to a greater extent the child in distress and increases the risk for the following types of birth injuries:

Brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy: One of the most common injuries caused by shoulder dystocia is brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy). This is a type of injury that occurs when the nerves in the brachial plexus are damaged or torn during the delivery. These nerves control the ability to move the arm and shoulder muscles.

Brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy can potentially result in long-term or lifelong injuries and disabilities including inability to move the arm normally or even paralysis. Brachial plexus palsy may also occur when a medical provider improperly uses a birth assistive device such as forceps or vacuum extractors to get a baby out of the birth canal.

Potential brain damage: Sometimes, shoulder dystocia may lead to brain damage. This happens when the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal and experiences asphyxia or lack of oxygen supply. When oxygen supply to the brain gets cut off, the child could suffer irreversible brain damage.

Broken bones: Babies may suffer a broken collarbone or a broken humerus (bone in the upper arm) during delivery. These types of injuries can be avoided when a medical provider quickly recognizes that the child’s shoulders are stuck against the mother’s pelvic bone.

Risk Factors of Shoulder Dystocia

Some of the known risk factors of shoulder dystocia include:

Macrosomia: This is when the child is larger than average. If the baby is large, a C-section may be required where the child is removed from the mother’s womb surgically through an incision made in the mother’s abdomen.

Gestational diabetes: This is a medical condition where the body has too much blood sugar. This could damage organs including blood vessels, nerves, the eyes and kidneys. Diabetes during pregnancy puts the mother at risk of having a larger than average baby.

Obesity: When the medical team fails to address or monitor a mother’s overweight condition or her weight gain during pregnancy, the risk of shoulder dystocia is heightened.

Contacting an Experienced Lawyer

The experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. One of our clients secured a $2,850,000 verdict in an Erb’s palsy (brachial plexus palsy) case that was reduced by the appeals court to $1,846,000 because the verdict was so large. This was the highest amount upheld by the appellate (appeals) courts for many, many years. In addition we recovered $1,400,000 for a newborn who lost motion in the arm during birth due to doctors applying incorrect force on the baby’s head. Also, one of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases.

We have seen many cases where New York City Health and Hospital Corporation facilities deliver babies who are born with cerebral palsy or brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy) stemming from negligence (carelessness), and/or medical malpractice in the labor and delivery etc. of the children.

The following list identifies some of these hospitals (operated by New York City Health and Hospital Corporation):

• Jacobi Hospital aka Bronx Municipal 1400 Pelham Parkway South Bronx, New York 10461 718-918-5000
• Lincoln Hospital 234 East 149th Street Bronx, New York 10451 718-579-5000
• North Central Bronx Hospital 3424 Kossuth Avenue Bronx, New York 10467 718-519-5000
• Coney Island Hospital 2601 Ocean Parkway Brooklyn, New York 11235 718-616-3000
• Kings County Hospital 451 Clarkson Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11203 718-245-3131
• Woodhull Hospital 760 Broadway Brooklyn, New York 11206 718-963-8000
• Bellevue Hospital 462 First Avenue New York, New York 10016 212-562-5555
• Harlem Hospital 506 Lenox Avenue New York, New York 10037 212-939-1000
• Metropolitan Hospital 1901 First Avenue New York, New York 10029 212-423-6262
• Elmhurst Hospital 79-01 Broadway Elmhurst, New York 11373 718-334-4000
• Queens Hospital Center 82-68 164th Street Jamaica, New York 11432 718-883-3000

Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury, lead poisoning and medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.

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