At Cooper Schall & Levy, our attorneys are well aware that shoulder dystocia, like other birth injuries, can turn a blessed event into a nightmare. Although the problem occurs relatively rarely (0.2 to 3 percent of pregnancies) and in most cases can be resolved without damage to the newborn, complications may result in disastrous consequences.
If you or your newborn have been seriously injured because of your doctor’s failure to meet reasonable standards of care before and during the birth, we may be able to prove medical malpractice. Our accomplished Philadelphia personal injury attorneys have the legal knowledge, extensive experience, and consummate skills to help you now, when you are most in need.
Once you contact our shoulder dystocia attorneys, we will evaluate the particulars of your case to determine whether you have a viable claim. Once you become our client, we will work hard to prove that your obstetrician’s mishandling of a shoulder dystocia emergency, or failure to realize the risk of such an event, put you and your baby in harm’s way, causing real damages for which you deserve compensation. You should be aware that we have a track record of successful outcomes.
Our skilled shoulder dystocia attorneys will do everything in our power to obtain justice for you and your family as you cope with the negative impact — physical, emotional, and financial — of your doctor’s negligence. Moreover, until we obtain a settlement, we will charge you no attorneys’ fees.
What is shoulder dystocia?
Shoulder dystocia is an obstetric complication of headfirst vaginal deliveries in which one or both of the infant’s shoulders become lodged in the mother’s pelvis after the head has already emerged. Obstetricians routinely prepare for this emergency since, in most cases, the condition is not apparent until late in the labor process.
The attending doctor must be quick-thinking and ready to use well-practiced gentle maneuvers to extract the baby safely. Danger exists that the infant will suffocate or that the mother and baby may suffer long-term or permanent injury. In cases in which there is high risk of shoulder dystocia, the obstetrician should schedule a Cesarean section well before the woman will go into labor.
Risk Factors for Shoulder Dystocia
While shoulder dystocia can happen in any headfirst vaginal birth, there are factors that make the problem more likely, including:
- Baby of high birth weight (usually more than 8 lbs 13 oz)
- Mother with pre-existing or gestational diabetes
- Mother who had a previous birth with shoulder dystocia
- Pregnancy with twins, triples or other multiples
- Overweight or obese mother (including one who has gained too much during pregnancy)
- Extended or very short second stage labor
In addition, medical decisions may increase the risk of shoulder dystocia. If one or more of the above conditions already exist, decisions by the obstetrician to use one of the following may be suspect:
- Administering oxytocin to induce labor
- Administering an epidural injection to relieve or eliminate pain during labor.
- Using forceps or a vacuum to assist in a vaginal birth
If your doctor failed to take existing risk factors into account, she or he may be held liable for medical malpractice.
Problems Shoulder Dystocia May Cause
Unfortunately, there are a number of problems that shoulder dystocia may cause, not only to the baby but to the mother as well.
Birth injuries to the newborn may include:
- Fractures to the collarbone and/or arm
- Damage to the brachial plexus nerves that go from the spinal cord down the arm, resulting in possible weakness, loss of sensation, or paralysis in the affected arm & hand
- Lack of oxygen (asphyxia) that can, in severe cases, result in brain injury or death
Maternal injuries may include:
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Serious tearing of the perineum (between the vagina and the rectum) that may require surgical repair
- Uterine rupture during labor (a rare complication)
Whatever harm you and your infant suffered at birth, our legal birth injury team is ready to provide you with excellent legal representation and moral support.
What Your Doctor May Have Done Wrong
Any well-trained obstetrician should be able to handle shoulder dystocia by:
- Performing a Cesarean section to avoid the problem in high-risk cases
- Preparing staff and having needed instruments ready for the eventuality of a difficult birth
- Trying several methods to maneuver the baby into a safer position before birth, applying suprapubic pressure (above the public bone), or changing the mother’s position
- Performing an episiotomy early on to enlarge the vaginal opening
- Performing a surgical procedure on the baby to release the shoulders so they will fit through the vaginal canal (only as a last resort)
If your doctor did not use any of these methods, you may have a justifiable medical malpractice claim for one of the following reasons:
- Doctor’s failure to anticipate dystocia by, for example, failing to accurately assess your baby’s size through an ultrasound or by simply taking into account your medical history.
- Doctor’s use of excessive force or traction, known to be hazardous to the newborn, too often resulting in Erb’s palsy
Damages Cooper Schall & Levy Will Fight to Win
We know you are living through the most grueling period of your life. We will do all we can to relieve the pressures on you and your family. Through agile negotiations and/or aggressive litigation, we will use our best legal strategies to recover damages for:
- Medical and rehabilitation costs
- Lost income while caring for your child
- Psychological counseling
- Permanent disability
- Extended nursing care
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Wrongful death benefits
Contact Our Experienced Philadelphia Shoulder Dystocia Attorneys Today
As soon as you contact Cooper Schall & Levy, we will take over all logistical legal and insurance matters so that you can recuperate from your trauma and help your child to grow and improve. We will handle all communications with opposing lawyers, painstakingly examine all medical records, and consult with medical experts who will bolster your case under oath. Our goal is to provide you and your loved ones with a secure and hopeful future.
Cooper Schall & Levy medical malpractice lawyers serve Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as well as neighboring counties such as Montgomery County and Delaware County and cover neighborhoods such as Norristown and Drexel Hill.