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What all new parents should know about shoulder dystocia

Every expectant parent hopes their child's birth will be complication-free. But, as with all things parenting-related, you never know when an unexpected problem will arise. Educating yourself ahead of time can help you know what to do if something happens.

One of the more common birth complications is called "shoulder dystocia." Here's what you need to know.

What is shoulder dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia happens when the baby's shoulders get stuck during delivery. Usually, the shoulders are trapped behind the mother's pelvic bone.

Shoulder dystocia can happen during any birth. It is more likely if the baby is large or overdue. Maternal obesity, gestational diabetes, induced labor and the use of epidurals can also increase the risk of the baby's shoulders becoming trapped.

Why is it a problem?

Shoulder dystocia itself is not an injury. It is merely a complication of birth. However, serious injury can result if dystocia is not detected early and treated properly.

Nerve damage is the most frequent injury associated with shoulder dystocia. The baby may have tremors or paralysis in their arms and hands. If the nerves were simply bruised, the issues should be temporary. If the nerves were torn, the effects may be permanent.

This injury is called brachial palsy. Infants with brachial palsy may need physical therapy or surgery to be able to use their arms properly.

In rare cases, dystocia can cause lack of oxygen to the brain. Lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage and death.

Mothers may also experience injuries from improperly treated shoulder dystocia, including heavy bleeding and tearing.

What can I do if my child is injured?

After a birth injury, parents are often at a loss for what to do. Many parents blame themselves, but a birth injury is never the parents' fault.

Sometimes, birth injuries are simply unfortunate accidents. Other times, they can be traced back to negligence on the part of a doctor, nurse or midwife. When this happens, it is important to know that compensation is available to help parents pay for their child's rehabilitation and medical care. An attorney can help you figure out what happened and understand your options for moving forward.

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