Shoulder Dystocia Risk Factors: 5 Things To Know August 7, 2023.

Shoulder Dystocia Risk Factors: 5 Things To Know

Shoulder dystocia is a scary situation in the delivery room for patients and doctors. It is a medical emergency that requires quick thinking and fast action. To handle the situation properly and avoid serious injuries to the mother and child, there must be a calm reaction by medical professionals capable of skilled and effective management. 

There is no warning shoulder dystocia will occur. However, there are shoulder dystocia risk factors. Healthcare providers are aware of these factors and have a duty to assess pregnant women for them. Proper steps taken by a doctor can save everyone from this frightening scenario. 

You may have a valid medical malpractice claim if you have experienced this terrifying ordeal. The legal professionals at Mellino Law have experience working on such cases and can review your claim. You can trust us to handle your case with care as we assist you with your potential lawsuit.

1. What Is Shoulder Dystocia and How Does It Occur?

Shoulder dystocia is one of the obstetric emergencies that could occur during the vaginal delivery of a baby. It happens when the baby's shoulder or shoulders get hung up due to their positioning within the mother's pelvis. It stops the progression of labor and delivery, trapping the baby in a dangerous situation. 

Shoulder dystocia can result in injury to the mother and baby. Mothers could suffer from hemorrhaging, lacerations, pelvic bone separation, and uterine rupture. Babies could have nerve damage, broken bones, fundal pressure, and brain injuries. It can also cause a lack of oxygen or blood flow and may result in infant death. 

Signs of shoulder dystocia during labor include:

  • The head emerges and goes back into the birth canal
  • Inability to deliver shoulders
  • The delay between head and shoulder delivery

2. Maternal Risk Factors for Shoulder Dystocia

A doctor should assess the mother for potential shoulder dystocia risk factors during prenatal care. Spotting these factors is the single best way to prevent it from happening during delivery. 

Common mother-related risk factors for shoulder dystocia include physical signs, such as having an abnormal or small pelvis or being very short. Health conditions, including obesity and diabetes, also increase the risk. 

Additional warning signs a mother may be at risk include:

  • Having the condition occur in a prior delivery
  • Carrying multiples
  • Being over the age of 35
  • Passing the due date
  • Using Oxytocin for induction of labor or an epidural during any stage of labor
  • Having a long first stage followed by a short second stage of labor
  • Using forceps or a vacuum to assist with delivery

3. Fetal Risk Factors Contributing to Shoulder Dystocia

This type of birth injury commonly happens when the baby has a high birth weight. A larger baby means less room in the birth canal, making the shoulders more likely to have trouble getting through. It is also harder for a baby to move into the correct position when it has a high fetal weight. 

Any positioning issue is another top risk for shoulder dystocia. For example, a posterior shoulder can prevent proper alignment of the baby's body and cause a hang-up in the birth canal. 

4. Impact of Gestational Diabetes on Shoulder Dystocia Risk

Diabetes is one of the top shoulder dystocia risk factors, and in the majority of cases, the mother has diabetes, which includes gestational diabetes. It increases the chances of this condition because the excess blood glucose from the mother goes to the baby. The baby then has increased fat storage, which leads to a higher birth weight. 

When managed properly, diabetes usually will not have a huge impact or adverse consequences on a pregnancy. The biggest issue is with untreated or undertreated cases. For this reason, doctors need to order proper glucose testing and monitor it throughout the pregnancy. 

5. How Prenatal Factors Can Influence the Likelihood of Shoulder Dystocia

The Cleveland Clinic states that incidences of shoulder dystocia are rare and most likely to occur in babies weighing over 8 pounds 3 ounces. A smooth delivery requires the mother's body and the baby to work together. There is little room for error, which means any risk factor could lead to this medical emergency. With proper prenatal care and monitoring, a doctor can catch shoulder dystocia risk factors and help avoid the problem during delivery. 

When monitoring the baby and checking on the mother, a doctor should be able to spot any abnormalities in the maternal pelvis or the baby that could increase the chances of a problem during the delivery. Testing and other procedures can help physicians to see any fetal chest, fetal head, or fetal shoulder issues and to get a good idea of the baby's birth weight. If anything looks off, the healthcare professional should be able to take steps to prevent shoulder dystocia from happening. 

The physician should also be aware of the issues that could occur with a diabetic mother and prescribe high-risk care for the pregnancy. Doctors should always know their patients' medical history and look for the potential risk of recurrence if shoulder dystocia occurred in a previous delivery. 

Plenty of information is available about shoulder dystocia and what makes it more likely to occur. All obstetricians should be knowledgeable about the issue and assess every patient for it. 

Proper prenatal care can lead to better decisions about how to proceed with labor and delivery. Cesarean deliveries are often the best course of action to avoid this emergency situation and avoid potential risks, such as neonatal morbidity and brachial plexus injury. 

Get Expert Assistance With Your Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

If you experienced a delivery with an incidence of shoulder dystocia, you may have a lawsuit against your healthcare provider. Proper management of shoulder dystocia risk factors in prenatal care should have protected you against this outcome. 

You deserve someone fighting on your side to seek compensation for the financial and emotional impacts of a doctor's negligence. The Mellino Law team is experienced in medical malpractice law and has helped others in this situation seek fair compensation. 

Contact us today to see how we can assist you with your case. Initial consultations are always free.