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Baby Stuck in Birth Canal? What Happens Next is Important

Labor’s progressing. The baby’s descending. But all of a sudden, the process comes to a halt— the baby’s stuck in the birth canal! What could cause this, and what should doctors do about it? Stay with us to learn about the complexities, risks, and possible conditions associated with a baby getting stuck in the birth canal.

Can Babies Get Stuck in the Birth Canal?

A baby can become trapped in the birth canal during childbirth, a condition known as “obstructed labor” in medical terminology. There are various reasons why this might happen, including:

  • Macrosomia: The baby is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis
  • The baby is in the wrong position for birth.
  • Shoulder dystocia: Occurs when the baby’s shoulders become trapped behind the mother’s pubic bone. 

A baby stuck in the birth canal isn’t necessarily a problem, but it can be. It can become a serious medical emergency. Babies can suffer oxygen deprivation or other injuries from spending too much time in the birth canal. Therefore, health professionals must intervene immediately to ensure the safe delivery of the baby.

What Should Doctors Do When a Baby Gets Stuck in the Birth Canal?

In many cases, doctors can detect problems like macrosomia ahead of time. If they determine the baby can’t be delivered safely, they might order a C-section. This will prevent the baby from getting stuck and suffering any potential injuries. 

But some problems—like a baby’s shoulder getting stuck—can’t be predicted ahead of time. In that case, doctors have to take action depending on the circumstances of the situation. 

Here are some general steps they might take:

  1. Determine why the baby’s stuck in the birth canal. 
  2. Monitor the mother and baby’s vital signs. 
  3. Decide what course of action is best to take, and take it. 
  4. If the baby or mother’s life is in danger, provide oxygen, administer medications, or prepare for resuscitation procedures.

Some of the methods doctors use to deliver a baby stuck in the birth canal include:

  • Changing the mother’s position.
  • Assisted Delivery: Guiding the baby through the birth canal with forceps or a vacuum.
  • Episiotomy: Making an incision in the tissue between the vagina and anus. This enlarges the vaginal opening so the baby can pass through. 
  • Cesarean Section: Delivering the baby through an incision made in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. 
Doctor performs c-section as the baby was stuck in the birth canal.

Birth Injuries from Being Stuck in Birth Canal 

A baby can become seriously injured from being stuck in the birth canal. Usually, injuries come about when doctors don’t take proper measures to ensure a baby’s safety. 

Some of the conditions associated with obstructed labor include:

Injuries can be unavoidable, even when a doctor follows standard procedures. But injuries can also be the direct result of a physician’s negligent actions.

For example, a doctor might choose to use forceps to help guide a stuck baby out of the birth canal. But pulling too hard on the baby’s head or using too much force can be catastrophic. This was the case during the birth of a baby at a Georgia hospital in 2023. 

When the baby failed to descend due to shoulder dystocia, a doctor applied excessive traction to the baby’s head, resulting in decapitation. A lawsuit filed by the mother alleges that the hospital then covered up what had happened. The family wasn’t allowed to hold the baby or see him up close, so they weren’t aware that his head had become detached until days later after the funeral home reported the suspicious death to police.  

Thankfully, the horrific tragedy described above is uncommon. Unfortunately, hospitals frequently attempt to “cover their tracks” when negligence causes injuries to babies. If you believe negligence played a part in injuring your baby, find out what legal steps you could take below. 

Newborn baby sleeping in a hospital bassinet.

Labor Obstruction Lawsuits 

A baby stuck in the birth canal may be grounds for a lawsuit when it results in injury. You may be able to sue a healthcare provider if:

  • You can prove your doctor treated you and your baby
  • There’s proof your doctor (or nurse, or hospital, etc) acted in a negligent way 
  • You can prove that negligence was the direct cause of your child’s injury
  • The statute of limitations hasn’t expired for your case. (This is a law that determines how long you have to file after an injury occurs. Usually, it’s 2-3 years, depending on the state). 

The burden of proof falls on the one who files the lawsuit. It’s not an easy task to prove that negligence occurred, even in cases that seem cut and dry. But with the right lawyer, you’ll have a better chance of obtaining compensation. If your baby was stuck in the birth canal and was injured due to negligence, contact us. Let us use our 60+ years of experience in birth injury cases to help you obtain the justice you deserve.