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Sudden Birth Injuries

Of all the negative events that occur in a delivery room, shoulder dystocia may be the most serious. Even experienced doctors panic when an otherwise normal delivery suddenly deteriorates into an emergency situation.

What is shoulder dystocia?

There are some risk factors for shoulder dystocia, namely diabetes in the mother or a history of big babies. Much more often than not, however, shoulder dystocia happens suddenly and without warning.

Sometimes a baby drops normally though the birth canal, but then shifts at the last minute. The baby becomes wedged in mother’s cervix. Time is critical, because the umbilical cord continues to drop and can wrap itself around the baby’s neck. The doctors have less than five minutes before the baby suffers brain damage due to low oxygen, and less than ten minutes before the baby asphyxiates.

High-Risk Responses to Shoulder Dystocia

Boston-area medical providers are trained to use the McRoberts Maneuver, in which one provider pins the mother’s hips against her abdomen to widen the birth canal. Another provider gently tugs on the baby. This method is effective, but in less than 50% of shoulder dystocia cases.

If the McRoberts Maneuver fails, many doctors get desperate:

  • Excessive Force. Sometimes, the doctor tries to pull harder on the baby’s arm, almost as if in a tug-of-war. Such violent pulling and yanking can cause permanent nerve damage to the baby’s shoulder and the side of the baby’s face.
  • Forceps. Forceps resemble giant salad tongs. The doctor clamps the forceps onto the baby’s head to pull the baby out. If the forceps are used too long or too roughly, the baby develops serious facial and head injuries and the baby’s skull may even become compressed.
  • Episiotomy. Doctors once routinely preformed episiotomies in these cases. An episiotomy is an incision on the mother’s perineum to widen the cervix. But the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now advises against such procedures, because they are ineffective and cause serious maternal bleeding.

If your child has suffered a birth injury due to a doctor’s negligence or fear, consult a Boston-area birth injury lawyer right away.

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