Shoulder Dystocia Lawyer in Houston
Houston Birth Injury Lawyer for Shoulder Dystocia
In the United States alone, approximately 28,000 babies are born with birth injuries annually. Additionally, 1,266 babies died in 2019 due to unintentional injuries in the U.S., according to CDC data. If your child suffered shoulder dystocia due to medical malpractice, contact a Houston shoulder dystocia lawyer.
Shoulder dystocia causes some of these injuries and accidental deaths during birth. If your baby suffered from shoulder dystocia injury, or if medical malpractice led to shoulder dystocia death, the Houston birth injury lawyers at Reich & Binstock want to fight for you.
Call us today at 713-622-7271 to schedule your free consultation.
What Is Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia occurs when one or both baby’s shoulders get stuck inside the mother’s pelvis during birth. It is a type of brachial plexus injury. Generally, most babies are born safely, even if their shoulders get stuck. Still, this type of birth trauma can cause serious issues for both mom and baby.
There are generally two forms of shoulder dystocia: posterior fetal shoulder dystocia and anterior fetal shoulder dystocia. Posterior and anterior shoulder dystocia are terms used to describe how the baby was positioned when the injury occurred.
How Common is Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is fairly rare and only happens in 0.2-3% of pregnancies. Shoulder dystocia death is also very uncommon, happening in approximately 0.4% of birth traumas. According to data from Johns Hopkins Medicine, brachial plexus injuries, such as shoulder dystocia, only occur in 1 or 2 per 1,000 live births.
What Are the Risk Factors Associated with Shoulder Dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia can happen to any mother and baby. However, some women are more at risk for this type of birth trauma than others. A doctor must assess each vaginal delivery and determine if there is a risk of brachial plexus injuries or other birth injuries.
If there is any indication that the baby’s shoulder has gotten stuck before exiting the mother’s pubic bone, the doctor must address it immediately. Certain risk factors can increase the risk of brachial plexus injuries.
The most common risk factors associated with shoulder dystocia include:
- Macrosomia: This occurs when a baby weighs more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. However, most vaginally born babies with macrosomia don’t have shoulder dystocia. This is because most cases of this type of birth trauma are associated with babies of normal weight. Still, macrosomia can raise risks, as mothers will have more trouble pushing larger babies.
- Diabetes: Having preexisting diabetes or gestational diabetes is also a risk factor for shoulder dystocia.
- Previous Shoulder Dystocia Injuries: having a child with shoulder dystocia in a previous pregnancy can raise your chances of having this kind of birth trauma in a later pregnancy.
- Carrying twins, triplets, or other multiples raises your chances of shoulder dystocia.
- Being overweight or gaining too much weight during pregnancy is another risk factor.
Labor Specific Conditions
Conditions that are specific to labor and birth can also raise your risk of shoulder dystocia.
These conditions include:
- Receiving oxytocin to induce labor can raise your risks of shoulder dystocia.
- Getting an epidural to reduce pain during labor can also raise the risk of shoulder dystocia.
- Having a very short or very long second stage of labor. This is the part of labor where a woman starts pushing to give birth.
- An assisted vaginal birth, also called an operative vaginal birth, can raise your chances of shoulder dystocia. In an assisted vaginal birth, a doctor will use tools such as forceps or a vacuum to pull a baby through the birth canal. With forceps, the doctor will put them around the baby’s head to guide it out of the vaginal canal. Meanwhile, a vacuum is a suction cup that goes around the baby’s head to guide it out of the vaginal canal.
Shoulder Dystocia Symptoms
The most common symptoms of shoulder dystocia include:
- When the baby’s shoulders don’t descend
- Difficulty in face and chin delivery
- Retracting difficulties
- Fetal head restitution failure
- Downward traction on the fetal head
What Are the Postpartum Side Effects of Shoulder Dystocia?
Most moms and babies fully recover from shoulder dystocia, but here are the most common problems they may face after this type of birth trauma.
Shoulder Dystocia Complications for Baby
- Collarbone and arm fractures are a common result of shoulder dystocia.
- Brachial plexus nerve damage, also known as Erb’s palsy. These nerves extend from the spinal cord in the neck and down the arm.
- Asphyxia is also known as a lack of oxygen in the body. In severe cases, this can cause injury or shoulder dystocia death. But asphyxia is very rare.
- Pneumothorax is a collection of gas between the chest wall and the lungs.
Shoulder Dystocia Complications for the Mother
- Postpartum hemorrhage, which is heavy bleeding after birth.
- Severe tearing of the perineum, which is the stretch of skin between the vagina and the rectum.
- Uterine or bladder rupture is a rare condition when the uterus or bladder tears during labor.
- Cervical tears, which is when the cervix tears during birth.
- Dislocation of the sacroiliac joint, which happens when both the anterior and the posterior columns of the pelvic ring are disrupted. When this happens, the hemipelvis rotates internally with vertical displacement.
- Symphyseal separation is the excessive movement of a part of the pelvis called the pubic symphysis.
How to Prevent Shoulder Dystocia
If your doctor thinks you may be at risk for shoulder dystocia, they can try several methods to move you and your baby into a better position during labor. Your doctor might try:
- The McRoberts maneuver, which is when you press your thighs against your belly.
- Suprapubic pressure, which is when your doctor presses on your lower belly above your pubic bone.
- Helping your baby’s arm out of the birth canal.
- Reaching into the vagina to attempt to turn the baby.
- Turning a mother onto all fours.
- Giving an episiotomy, which is a surgical cut at the vaginal opening during childbirth. This is generally not a routine method. It’s only done when a larger opening would be helpful during birth.
- Performing a Cesarean delivery to prevent the baby’s shoulders from getting stuck in the pelvis.
Treatment for Postpartum Shoulder Dystocia Side Effects
If shoulder dystocia isn’t resolved during labor, both mother and baby can suffer painful postpartum side effects. It is considered a medical emergency that must be addressed immediately. Without swift intervention, the mother and baby could both suffer injuries.
Treatment for the Baby
Because there are many possible side effects from shoulder dystocia, there are dozens of treatments available for mother and baby.
Usually, no treatment is advised for collarbone and arm fractures in babies because they heal quickly without issues. But if the fracture is severe, the parent must pin the baby’s arm sleeve to the front of its clothing to attempt immobilization while healing.
For Erb’s palsy, the most common treatment is to keep the affected arm moving. Parents must play a major role in moving the baby’s arm for healing. If the nerve damage is severe, babies may need surgery to repair it.
For birth asphyxia, treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Immediate treatment after birth includes:
- Providing the mother with extra oxygen if the asphyxia happens before delivery
- Suctioning fluid away from the baby’s airways
- Putting the baby on a respirator
However, severe treatment for asphyxia requires specialized treatment, including:
- Putting the baby in a hyperbaric oxygen tank
- Induced hypothermia to cool the baby and help prevent brain damage
- Medication to regulate blood pressure
- Dialysis to support the kidneys and remove excess waste from the body
- Medication to control seizures
- IV nutrition
- A breathing tube with nitric oxide
- Life support with a heart and lung pump
Finally, a pneumothorax in a baby is treated by providing extra oxygen and removing the extra air from the chest.
Treatment for the Mother
Stitches and rest can fix all types of tears due to childbirth. However, a ruptured uterus or bladder during birth is treated differently. The rupture is usually repaired with surgery. For severe ruptures, a hysterectomy may be necessary.
Medication, manual uterine massage, removal of placental pieces inside the uterus, and tying off bleeding blood vessels are common treatments for postpartum hemorrhages. In more serious cases of postpartum hemorrhage, a hysterectomy may be necessary.
Nonsurgical treatments for a dislocated sacroiliac joint include physical therapy, chiropractic manipulation, and stretching. But for a severe dislocation, a mother may need a minimally invasive sacroiliac joint fusion surgery.
Lastly, mothers suffering from postpartum symphyseal separation due to shoulder dystocia will need bedrest in the side position, pelvic support with a brace or girdle, and physical therapy.
How Does Medical Malpractice Cause Shoulder Dystocia Injury or Shoulder Dystocia Death?
In some cases, medical malpractice causes shoulder dystocia. If your doctor doesn’t act quickly or appropriately in response to shoulder dystocia, you may be able to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Doctors can generally face two types of malpractice claims associated with shoulder dystocia cases:
- Excessive force: shoulder dystocia during birth may have been caused because your doctor used excessive force while trying to deliver the baby in a better position.
- Failure to expect shoulder dystocia: your doctor should expect shoulder dystocia due to the presence of certain risk factors. A lawsuit based on this allegation claims that a doctor should’ve offered specific types of delivery to avoid the possibility of shoulder dystocia.
Damages for a Shoulder Dystocia Case
If your baby suffered a shoulder dystocia death or you suffered major injuries as a result of birth trauma, you are eligible for compensation.
Types of compensation you can receive are:
- Past and present medical expenses. This includes costs of physical therapy, surgeries, adaptive equipment, counseling, and more.
- Lost wages from you or your child’s injury.
- Future earnings losses if you or your child can’t work in the future due to injuries.
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress and loss of quality of life.
Is Shoulder Dystocia Death Possible?
Shoulder dystocia death is often preventable, but still possible. The most common cause of shoulder dystocia death is asphyxia, which can lead to brain injury or death if doctors respond quickly or correctly. Death from this type of birth trauma only happens in about 0.4% of cases.
However, if your baby is in that slim statistic, a Houston medical malpractice attorney wants to fight for you. We understand that your family and your baby are much, much more than a statistic. And we have the resources available to investigate your case fully.
Houston Medical Malpractice Lawyers for Shoulder Dystocia Injuries
Without a medical background, it can be difficult to know if the hospital or pharmaceutical staff was negligent before or during labor that led to shoulder dystocia. Our lawyers can help evaluate the specifics of your case and also file a claim if medical malpractice is a factor.
At Reich & Binstock, our attorneys care deeply about making sure our clients receive justice.
Call us today for a free consultation at 713-622-7271 or complete our confidential online form for information about shoulder dystocia claims.
There is a never a fee unless we recover on your behalf.