Open Accessibility Menu

What Causes Shoulder Dystocia?

Michael Bereston

Imagine you just went through 12 hours of labor. Joyful that the birth is over, you look into the doctor’s eyes to find a look of concern. He says, “The trauma of birth has left your baby with a paralyzed arm.”

Shoulder dystocia can cause nerve damage

Shoulder dystocia can cause nerve damage, often happening when a baby gets stuck in the birth canal during delivery. When a doctor has to force a baby through the birth canal, injuries to the shoulder area can damage the nerves in the shoulder. These nerves pass through the shoulder to send signals from the brain to the arms.

When the nerves rip or tear in these situations, it can cause the baby’s arm to go limp resulting in permanent nerve injury. Sometimes an injury is temporary and heals after birth. Other times, it’s a permanent, lifelong condition.

The size of your baby doesn’t matter

You might think that big babies have the highest risk for shoulder dystocia, but 50 percent of shoulder dystocia cases happen to small babies. What really causes shoulder dystocia is the baby’s failure to properly position him- or herself for exiting the womb through the birth canal.

Sometimes it’s also about the mother’s positioning. When the mother can reposition herself, the baby can sometimes better align to come out more easily through the pelvis.

Was your obstetrician negligent?

In many cases, obstetricians can detect when shoulder dystocia is likely. Then, they can order an emergency caesarian section to safely birth the baby. Failure to order a caesarian or failure to take other appropriate action to prevent shoulder dystocia could be an indication of medical malpractice on the part of a physician. If you suspect that your obstetrician’s negligence led to your baby’s shoulder dystocia, you might want to investigate your legal rights and options.

If you believe your child is a victim of medical malpractice,
contact our firm for a free, no-obligation consultation today.


your voice
be heard

Fill out the form below to get started on your free consultation or give a call at (410) 220-6581 to speak with our legal team directly.

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.
Mother kissing her baby's feet