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Birth injuries are often serious, and shoulder dystocia is no exception. Shoulder dystocia occurs when one or both shoulders of an infant are stuck in the mother’s pelvis during delivery. Although the majority of shoulder dystocia injuries will heal within six to 12 months, there is a risk for permanent disability or even death in severe cases.

What Causes Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia (slow or difficult labor or delivery), occurs for a variety of reasons, including:

  • The baby is unusually large
  • The mother’s pelvis is small or abnormal
  • The mother is obese, or has gestational diabetes
  • It is a situation involving multiple births
  • The pregnancy as gone beyond the due date

Shoulder Dystocia Related Injuries

If an infant’s shoulders cannot enter or pass through the mother’s pelvis during delivery, the baby will become wedged in the birth canal, and the force with which the mother’s body is trying to push the baby out can lead to serious injuries for both mother and child.

Injuries to the infant often include:

  • Deprivation of oxygen
  • Fractured arm or collarbone
  • Nerve damage to the shoulder, hand, or arm (Erb’s Palsy)

Complications to the mother may include:

  • Bruising or tearing of the cervix, rectum, or vagina
  • Uterine rupture
  • Bladder bruising
  • Hemorrhage

Cases of shoulder dystocia sometimes occur due to medical error, particularly when forceps or a vacuum are involved in delivery. Injuries can also occur if a physician is not well trained or significantly deviates from the accepted standard of care.

The above information is not legal advice. Any questions about shoulder dystocia should be directed to a medical professional.

Post information was taken from the following sources:
Shoulder Dystocia –
The Standard of Care: Legal History and Definitions: the Bad and Good News –

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