The vast majority of births in South Carolina go smoothly, with no adverse impact on mother or child. But when complications occur that leave one or both with severe injuries, a blessed event can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Shoulder dystocia is a relatively rare, but potentially serious complication that can result in harm to both mother and baby. The term dystocia means "slow or difficult labor or delivery." It occurs after the baby's head has been delivered through the birth canal, but the shoulders become lodged behind the pubic bone, halting further progress.
Even though the baby is stuck, the mother's body will continue trying to force the baby out, potentially resulting in injury. Injuries to the mother can include hemorrhaging, uterine rupture, bruised bladder, or tearing and bruising of the rectum, cervix, and vagina.
The potential injuries to the baby can be even more severe, including nerve damage in the shoulder, arm, or hands; broken arm or collarbone; or, worst of all, oxygen deprivation.
Oxygen deprivation poses the most serious risk to the baby because prolonged lack of oxygen can result in brain damage, permanent disability, or even death.
There is no way for a doctor to accurately prevent or predict shoulder dystocia before it happens. However, there are several known risk factors. Some of these include multiple babies, prior births involving shoulder dystocia, an exceptionally large baby, and a mother who is obese or diabetic.
Even though the complication does not occur until labor is under way, a properly trained doctor should be able to diagnose shoulder dystocia and take proper steps to correct it. A doctor's failure to do so may amount to medical malpractice, in which case the doctor may be liable to provide financial compensation for damages associated with the birth injury.