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SHOULDER DYSTOCIA

SHOULDER DYSTOCIA REFERS TO THE SITUATION DURING DELIVERY WHEN THE BABY’S SHOULDER BECOMES STUCK BEHIND THE MOTHER’S PUBIC BONE. ERB’S PALSY IS A BIRTH INJURY CAUSED BY UNNECESSARY STRETCHING OF THE BABY’S BRACHIAL PLEXUS BY THE OBSTETRICIAN DURING A DELIVERY INVOLVING SHOULDER DYSTOCIA.

During the usual vaginal delivery, the head of the baby emerges first, followed by the baby’s shoulders. The baby’s head usually has the largest dimensions, so if the head can pass through the mother’s pelvis without difficulty the rest of the baby follows without difficulty. Complications arise, either because of the baby’s size or the size of the maternal pelvis, there is insufficient room for the baby to pass freely. For example, babies of diabetic mothers more frequently have shoulders that are disproportionally larger than their heads.

Shoulder dystocia occurs in approximately 20,000 deliveries a year and there are specific maneuvers designed to free the baby’s shoulder safely, so that injury does not occur. None of these maneuvers involve moving the baby’s head at all. If the obstetrician fails to either recognize that the baby’s shoulder is stuck or fails to use the maneuvers specifically designed to deliver the baby without injury, the nerve roots in the brachial plexus can be stretched to the point of rupturing them, causing serious permanent impairment of the function of the baby’s arm, or even paralysis. The brachial plexus consists of the nerve roots of the spinal cord segments from the neck which lead down the arm. The mechanism of the injury is when the obstetrician departs from good and accepted medical practice and tries to complete the delivery by applying downward pressure on the baby’s head.

In deciding Erb’s Palsy cases, juries have rendered awards to compensate the child for the permanent effects of the injuries caused by medical malpractice. For example, a Manhattan jury awarded over 3 million dollars in one Erb’s Palsy case finding that the doctors and health care professionals used excessive traction in the delivery of a baby; a Bronx Jury awarded over 3 million dollars in a case involving the delivery of an excessively large baby by vaginal delivery instead of by caesarean causing the baby a brachial plexus injury; and a Brooklyn Jury awarded 2.5 million dollars to a child who suffered an Erb’s Palsy injury against medical personnel who failed to offer to the mother the option of a caesarean delivery.

The medical malpractice lawyers at Levy Konigsberg work closely with experts in the obstetrical and neurological fields to identify situations involving negligence and in holding an obstetrician responsible for a birth injury caused as a result of medical malpractice. Other experts consulted with in order to obtain deserved compensation for birth injury victims may include life care planners to forecast future medical costs and assistance for daily living activities, and economists, to forecast the impact the permanent birth injuries will have on the child’s future ability to earn income over his or her work life expectancy.

ATTENTION: If you believe your child’s birth injury was the result of medical malpractice, please contact our office for a free consultation with our medical malpractice lawyers at our 24/7 toll-free hotline at or submit an online inquiry using the email form or live chat on this website.

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