Shoulder Dystocia Birth Injury: What Are the Consequences?

Elise Kramer | June 20th, 2012

Shoulder dystocia takes place when the shoulder of a fetus gets lodged between the mother’s pelvic bone. When a physician attempts to dislodge the fetus’ arm from the mother’s pelvis, a number of birth injuries can take place that can seriously harm the fetus. Experts believe that shoulder dystocia occurs in 25 to 50 percent of births–a quarter to a half–but it is often agreed that injury related to the complication is not reported as often as it actually occurs. The risk of side effects ranges from brain damage and cerebral palsy to fractures, bruising, and cuts. The condition can also lead to fetal distress. These complications can be lifelong if a medical team does not react quickly and appropriately to shoulder dystocia.

Birth injuries linked to shoulder dystocia

Birth injuries that have been linked to shoulder dystocia include clavicle or collarbone fracture and brachial plexus injury, also known as nerve damage. Fractures can be treated without surgery, but brachial plexus injuries often do require surgery; most infants recover from such procedures within six months, but those who do not may require additional surgeries in order to deal with the injury. If fetal distress occurs, cerebral palsy may also occur. Cerebral palsy is a condition that can manifest if a fetal brain is deprived of oxygen for a long period of time, which fetal distress can cause. In addition, brain damage in the newborn can result from fetal distress or oxygen deprivation as a result of shoulder dystocia and improper response to it.

Lawsuits filed in shoulder dystocia cases

A number of parents whose children suffered cerebral palsy resulting from a birth injury or other serious side effects and complications have filed suit against the hospital or medical team responsible for these injuries. They are hoping to gain settlements that will help cover their child’s side effects as well as other costs associated with the injury endured by the child, including medical bills.