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Was my baby's shoulder dystocia preventable

You spent nine months waiting for your baby to be born. Come delivery day, it didn't go as you expected. During birth, your baby struggled to come out and one of her shoulders got stuck.

The obstetrician and delivery room team scrambled to give your baby the extra assistance she needed to be born, but during the process, she got seriously hurt and suffered a shoulder dystocia birth injury as a result.

Symptoms of shoulder dystocia

If your baby has shoulder dystocia, she might be okay without injury, or she might have some nerve damage to her arms and shoulders. This happens to 10 percent of babies born following a shoulder dystocia incident.

If it's severe, and the nerve damage manifests as Erb's palsy, your baby could have numbness or paralysis in her arms. Usually, this paralysis and numbness heal completely in hours or days following birth, but in rare situations, it endures as a permanent birth injury.

Whose fault was it?

Why does your baby have this condition? Did the doctor do something wrong? Did the shoulder dystocia happen naturally, or was it completely preventable?

Shoulder dystocia itself probably isn't the fault of the doctor. Babies that are extra big, for example, can get stuck in the birth canal. Also, your baby may not have moved into the optimal position for birth and got stuck. Or, it may be difficult to determine exactly why the shoulder dystocia happened.

What's important in these instances, though, is how the treating obstetrician responded to the dystocia. Here are some questions you need to ask:

  1. Did the doctor help you change your own position to make the birth happen more easily?
  2. Did the doctor use overly aggressive manipulation techniques to pull your baby out of the birth canal?
  3. Did the doctor wait too long to respond to the shoulder dystocia?

Evaluating if your doctor did something wrong

Just because your baby has shoulder dystocia doesn't mean automatically that your obstetrician or the delivery room staff did something wrong. However, any kind of birth injury warrants investigation. An experienced Honolulu birth injury lawyer will be adept at looking at you and your baby's medical records, as well as your baby's injuries to ascertain if your baby has been the victim of a medical negligence or medical malpractice event.

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