Shoulder Dystocia

“I have been there so many times before and NOW I will be there for YOU and your family.”
- Tim Misny - The man that “Makes Them Pay!®”

“Please understand that the slogan, I’ll Make Them Pay!® is not a guarantee of payment. Both liability and real damages must be proven with preponderance of the evidence.” – Tim Misny

Shoulder Dystocia Injury Lawyer

I have great respect for medical professionals who work hard to keep both mother and baby safe, but sometimes mismanagement of medical emergencies can cause long term damage to the mother and/or baby.  It tears my heart out when I learn of a birth experience that was marred by serious complications.

A common complication of childbirth is shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia occurs when the infant’s head is delivered, but the shoulder is caught below the mother’s pubic bone.  There are known risk factors for this such as; gestational diabetes, a smaller than usual pelvic bone, or the birth of a previous large baby.

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is a medical complication that occurs during childbirth. When a baby’s head has passed through the mother’s cervix and into the birth canal, its shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bones, resulting in dystocia. This condition can lead to a delay or difficulty in delivering the baby’s body, which poses potential risks to both the baby and the mother.

Shoulder dystocia is considered an emergency situation because if not managed promptly and appropriately, it can result in further complications. The primary concern is that the baby’s oxygen supply may be compromised due to pressure on the umbilical cord, which can lead to fetal distress. Additionally, the baby’s head and shoulders being stuck can cause trauma to the brachial plexus nerves, which control movement and sensation in the arms and hands. This trauma can result in a condition known as Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injury.

Possible Injuries Caused by Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is an obstetric emergency.
Dystocia can cause devastating injuries such as:

Brachial Plexus Injury (Brachial Plexus Palsy)

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that control movement and sensation in the arms and hands. During shoulder dystocia, excessive force or pressure on the baby’s shoulders can lead to stretching or tearing of these nerves. This can result in various degrees of brachial plexus injury, ranging from minor nerve damage to more severe cases like Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy. These conditions can lead to weakness or paralysis in the affected arm.


Shoulder dystocia can sometimes cause fractures in the baby’s clavicle (collarbone) or humerus (upper arm bone). These fractures can occur when the physicians manipulate the baby in order to move the shoulder from a stuck position during delivery.

Cerebral Palsy

Although not a direct result of shoulder dystocia, complications arising from shoulder dystocia, such as oxygen deprivation or birth trauma, can potentially contribute to cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a group of permanent movement disorders that typically appear in early childhood. It can result from brain damage or abnormal brain development, which can occur if the baby experiences a lack of oxygen during birth.

Lack of Oxygen to the Baby (Hypoxia and Asphyxia)

One of the critical concerns in shoulder dystocia is the potential for the baby’s oxygen supply to be compromised. When the baby’s shoulders become stuck, the umbilical cord can be compressed, reducing or cutting off the oxygen supply to the baby. This lack of oxygen, known as hypoxia or asphyxia, can lead to brain damage, organ dysfunction, and other serious complications.

Excessive Bleeding in the Mother (Postpartum Hemorrhage)

Shoulder dystocia can also have implications for the mother’s health. The process of delivering the baby’s shoulders might cause trauma to the birth canal and surrounding tissues. This trauma may lead to excessive bleeding in the mother, a condition known as postpartum hemorrhage. It’s essential for medical professionals to manage the situation promptly to minimize the risk of severe bleeding.

Facial Nerve Injury

During a difficult delivery involving shoulder dystocia, the baby’s head may experience pressure or trauma, which can potentially lead to injury of the facial nerve. This nerve controls movement of the muscles in the face, and damage to it can result in facial weakness or paralysis.

Clavicle (Collarbone) Fracture

Apart from humerus fractures, a common fracture associated with shoulder dystocia is a clavicle fracture. The clavicle can break due to the pressure exerted during the delivery process.

Nerve Damage

Beyond brachial plexus injuries, other nerves in the baby’s neck and shoulders may also be affected during a challenging delivery. Nerve damage may result in various neurological issues and potential long-term complications.

Maternal Tears and Injuries

Shoulder dystocia can cause significant stress on the mother’s birth canal, leading to tears or injuries in the perineal area (the area between the vagina and anus). These tears can range from minor to severe and might require sutures or other medical interventions.

Uterine Rupture

In rare cases, the excessive force applied during attempts to resolve shoulder dystocia could lead to uterine rupture. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition in which the uterus tears open. Uterine rupture can result in severe bleeding and require immediate surgical intervention.

Bone Fractures in the Baby

Besides clavicle and humerus fractures, other bones in the baby’s body can also be at risk of fractures due to the maneuvering required to alleviate shoulder dystocia. This can include fractures in the ribs or other arm bones.

Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE)

If the baby experiences prolonged oxygen deprivation during shoulder dystocia, it can lead to a condition known as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE refers to brain damage caused by reduced oxygen and blood flow to the brain. It can result in neurological impairments and developmental delays.

The birth injuries that can be caused by shoulder dystocia can be devastating, and possibly life changing. Your child deserves to get the help they need if he/she has been harmed during the birth process. I have more than 40 years of experience taking on birth injury cases, and I’ll Make Them Pay!®

Medical Malpractice Causes of Shoulder Dystocia

Medical malpractice leading to shoulder dystocia can occur due to various factors. Here are some reasons along with brief descriptions of each:

Failure to Recognize Risk Factors: Medical malpractice can occur if healthcare providers fail to identify and consider maternal risk factors for shoulder dystocia, such as gestational diabetes, maternal obesity, or a history of previous shoulder dystocia. Failure to recognize these risk factors can lead to inadequate preparation for potential complications during childbirth.

Inadequate Prenatal Monitoring: If healthcare professionals neglect to closely monitor the baby’s growth and position during pregnancy, they may miss signs that indicate a larger-than-average baby or a breech presentation. These factors can increase the likelihood of shoulder dystocia and result in preventable complications.

Poor Communication and Coordination: Inadequate communication between medical staff during labor and delivery can lead to errors in decision-making and management of shoulder dystocia. Lack of coordination among the team members may delay appropriate interventions, thereby increasing the risks associated with the condition.

Inappropriate Use of Labor Induction or Augmentation: Inducing or speeding up labor without proper medical indications can lead to a rapid progression of labor, which might increase the risk of shoulder dystocia. If medical professionals inappropriately use labor-inducing drugs or techniques, it can contribute to a situation where the baby’s head passes through the cervix before the birth canal is adequately prepared.

Improper Use of Delivery Techniques: Medical malpractice can occur if healthcare providers improperly use delivery techniques such as excessive force, improper positioning of the mother, or incorrect maneuvers to release the baby’s shoulders. These errors can lead to birth trauma, nerve injuries, and other complications.

Lack of Informed Consent: If medical professionals fail to inform the mother about the potential risks associated with shoulder dystocia and the available management options, it can lead to a lack of informed consent.

Inadequate Staff Training: Medical malpractice can arise if healthcare providers lack proper training and experience in managing shoulder dystocia. Inexperienced personnel may make errors in judgment or execution during critical moments, potentially exacerbating the situation.

Delayed Emergency Response: A delay in recognizing and responding to shoulder dystocia as an emergency situation can result in harmful consequences for both the baby and the mother. Medical professionals should be prepared to swiftly initiate appropriate interventions when shoulder dystocia occurs.

Failure to Perform Cesarean Section: If healthcare providers do not promptly consider or perform a cesarean section when other interventions fail to resolve shoulder dystocia. This may lead to prolonged oxygen deprivation and birth trauma for the baby.

Inadequate Postpartum Care: The aftermath of shoulder dystocia requires vigilant monitoring of both the baby and the mother for potential complications. Inadequate postpartum care, including failure to identify and manage any injuries, can constitute medical malpractice.

Awarded Damages for Shoulder Dystocia

When suing for a shoulder dystocia injury, you may seek various damages to compensate for the harm caused to you or your baby. Damages may include:

Medical Expenses: Compensation for medical expenses covers the costs incurred due to the treatment of injuries caused by the shoulder dystocia. This includes hospital bills, doctor’s fees, medication costs, rehabilitation expenses, and any ongoing medical care required for the mother and the baby.

Pain and Suffering: Pain and suffering damages aim to compensate for the physical pain and emotional distress. Also, psychological trauma experienced by both the mother and the baby as a result of the complications arising from shoulder dystocia. This can encompass the immediate pain during childbirth, ongoing discomfort, and any long-term emotional distress.

Loss of Earning Capacity: If the baby sustains permanent injuries due to shoulder dystocia, they may face limitations in their future ability to work and earn a living. Compensation for loss of earning capacity seeks to address the potential economic impact of these injuries on the child’s ability to support themselves as they grow older.

Future Medical Expenses: Shoulder dystocia-related injuries might require ongoing medical treatment, therapy, surgeries, and other interventions throughout the affected individual’s life. Compensation for future medical expenses ensures that the necessary care and support are available as the person continues to deal with the consequences of the condition.

Loss of Consortium: Loss of consortium damages can be sought by the spouse or partner of the injured person due to the impact of the injuries on their relationship. This compensation acknowledges the changes in companionship, intimacy, and support resulting from the injuries caused by shoulder dystocia.

Emotional Distress: Separate from pain and suffering, emotional distress damages address the psychological impact of shoulder dystocia-related injuries. This can include anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues that arise due to the trauma and complications experienced during childbirth.

Cost of Special Education and Therapy: If your baby suffers from long-term disabilities or developmental delays due to shoulder dystocia, they may require specialized education, therapy, and support services. Compensation for these costs aims to provide the necessary resources for the child’s optimal development and well-being.

Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Shoulder dystocia-related injuries can limit an individual’s ability to engage in various activities. Compensation for loss of enjoyment of life acknowledges the diminished quality of life resulting from the injuries and seeks to provide some measure of compensation for this loss.

Punitive Damages: In cases of extreme negligence or intentional misconduct, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future. These damages go beyond compensation and are intended to send a message about the severity of the misconduct.

Legal Fees: In some cases, the winning party may be entitled to compensation to recover the cost of legal fees. This compensation covers the costs associated with pursuing the lawsuit, including attorney fees, court filing fees, and other related expenses.

Your Birth Injury Attorney

A major concern with shoulder dystocia is damage to the brachial plexus nerves. These  are the nerves that supply the sensory and motor components of the shoulder, arms, and hands.  Injury to this set of nerves is a factor in Cerebral Palsy, Erb’s Palsy, and Klumpke paralysis.

Do you think your child’s birth injury is a result of shoulder dystocia caused by medical malpractice or neglect?  Call me today and and we’ll discuss your case. If negligence caused your baby’s injury, “I’ll Make Them Pay!®” so your child can receive the necessary care and treatment to live a better life.


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