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What mothers should know about shoulder dystocia

In a very small percentage of pregnancies, the newborn may suffer from a birth injury called shoulder dystocia. It occurs when the baby’s shoulder, or both shoulders, become stuck in the mother’s pelvis. Expectant mothers in Indiana should know what the risk factors are and how it can be prevented or treated.

Shoulder dystocia can lead to a fractured arm or collarbone and damage to the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that control movements and sensation in the shoulder, arm and hand. The baby may suffer from weakness or paralysis in the arm as a result. In rare cases, the baby may be deprived of oxygen, leading to brain damage or death. The mother may incur heavy bleeding or have her perineum torn.

The risk for shoulder dystocia increases with multiple births, mothers who are overweight or gained an excessive amount of weight during their pregnancy, mothers with diabetes and babies who are unusually large: a condition called macrosomia. If doctors use forceps or vacuums to assist in delivery, or if mothers are given oxytocin to induce labor, shoulder dystocia becomes more likely.

Shoulder dystocia cannot be predicted, but doctors may seriously recommend that mothers undergo a C-section to prevent it. During delivery, doctors may try various methods to open the pelvis wider.

Unfortunately, many birth injuries could have been prevented were it not for some negligent act or omission on the part of doctors. In such cases, though, parents may be able to file a malpractice claim against the doctor or the hospital. A lot of malpractice cases end in million-dollar or multimillion-dollar settlements, so anyone meaning to pursue such a case may do well to have legal assistance. A lawyer may build up the case with the help of investigators, medical experts and other third parties.

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