Shoulder Dystocia Complications & Its Long Term Effects

Birth injuries are never easy to talk about. And going through one with your own child is even more difficult. Soon-to-be-mothers spend 9 months going through a wide variety of emotions. While many do worry about the what-ifs, they try to remain optimistic. But sometimes, things can go a little unexpected in the labor and delivery room. Shoulder dystocia is a birth injury that occurs in 0.15-2% of all births. While there are certain predetermined factors that may cause shoulder dystocia, medical malpractice can also play a role. It can lead to shoulder shoulder dystocia complications..

Read below to learn more about shoulder dystocia. And if you believe you and your baby suffered from shoulder dystocia because of a doctor’s negligence, know that you may be entitled to compensation. Hampton & King can help you determine if you have a legal claim. Contact us now if you have any questions.

Baby with shoulder dystocia complications cries in pain.

What Is Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is a childbirth emergency. It is when one of the baby’s shoulders gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. This condition can become serious and even life threatening. Usually, after the baby’s head passes through the birth canal, there is a short pause. If shoulder dystocia occurs, the pause becomes longer. This threatens the baby’s life as it is struggling for oxygen. The medical staff will need to work as quickly and efficiently as possible to help deliver the baby before complete oxygen deprivation. 


Doctors and midwives receive extensive training and can tackle an emergency like shoulder dystocia. They should have the skills to deliver a baby with minimum injury. However, shoulder dystocia complications can occur. Here’s what can happen as a result:

Complications for the baby:

  • Fractures to the collarbone and/or arm
  • Brachial Plexus nerve damage. These nerves travel from the spinal cord down to the arm. They are responsible for providing feeling in the shoulder, arm, and hand. Thus, damage to these nerves could lead to weakened movement or even paralysis. This is called Brachial Plexus Palsy.
  • Horner’s syndrome – a disorder affecting the eyes and facial features.
  • Oxygen deprivation, also known as asphyxia. This could lead to brain damage or even death.

Complications for the mother:

  • Extremely heavy bleeding after birth (postpartum hemorrhage)
  • Severe tearing of the perineum. Sometimes surgery may be needed to repair the tear.
  • Separation of pubic bones
  • Uterine rupture

Risk Factors Associated With Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia long term effects can be devastating. Complications during birth can lead to a lifelong need for assistance. And although shoulder dystocia is impossible to predict, there are certain factors that may put you and your baby at risk for this injury.

Here are some things that may make shoulder dystocia more likely to occur:

  • Previous birth with shoulder dystocia
  • Fetal macrosomia – this is when baby is large
  • Mother has diabetes
  • Mother is overweight
  • Having an induced labor
  • Using epidural to relieve labor pain
  • A labor in which devices and interventions are used such as forceps/vacuum 

Sometimes, none of these risks are present and shoulder dystocia can still occur. A very long labor could also result in shoulder dystocia complications. 

Medical Negligence Can Lead To Shoulder Dystocia Complications

Unfortunately, some injuries from shoulder dystocia can occur due to the negligence of your medical provider. Perhaps your physician fails to recognize shoulder dystopia complications. Maybe the condition doesn’t receive the attention or care it should. Malpractice can lead to serious complications you and your child may have to live with. 

Listed below are some of the ways doctors, nurses, and other medical providers may act negligently when it comes to shoulder dystocia.

  • Not providing proper prenatal care 
  • Failure to diagnose macrosomia (large baby)
  • Improper management of a prolonged labor
  • Improper use of forceps or vacuum during delivery
  • Using excessive force when trying to pull baby out
Doctor cares for baby with shoulder dystocia.

Filing A Birth Injury Lawsuit

Bringing a new life into this world is both beautiful and nerve wracking. Sometimes small complications can happen during labor and delivery. And other times complications become more serious. Unfortunately, due to a doctor’s negligence a child may have to live with the long term effects of shoulder dystocia. And although there is nothing that can take away the pain and suffering caused by a birth injury, a lawsuit can at least help lessen the financial burdens. 

If your child suffered from shoulder dystocia and is living with complications due to malpractice, you could be entitled to compensation and justice. Contact the team of Hampton & King to learn about your options. We can help you navigate through the complexities of a legal case and maximize your potential compensation. Get in touch today