stethoscope scales and gavel


Shoulder dystocia is a delivery room emergency that requires specific, immediate action in order to save a newborn’s life. Shoulder dystocia occurs when, during the delivery process, a baby is unable to pass through the birth canal because his shoulders get stuck. 

Because the infant’s umbilical cord is compressed in the birth canal during this time, medical professionals must perform some specific maneuvers to either facilitate a vaginal delivery as soon as possible or to make it possible to perform an emergency C-section to prevent serious, potentially fatal birth injuries.

When Shoulder Dystocia Is Most Likely to Occur

According to the March of Dimes, shoulder dystocia occurs in about 1 percent of all births in the U.S. Mother who have the greatest risk of experiencing this birthing complication include those who:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have gestational diabetes
  • Have unusually large babies or especially small pelvic openings
  • Are having multiple babies
  • Are delivering their babies after the due date
  • Have a history of shoulder dystocia with previous births.

Delivery Options When Shoulder Dystocia Occurs

When this birthing complication occurs, medical professionals can do any of the following to try to safely deliver the baby:

  • Widen the mother’s birth canal by having her hold her legs to her chest or roll onto all fours or by performing an episiotomy
  • Turn the baby in the birth canal to try to get around the obstruction
  • Break the baby’s collar bone to try to get the baby through the birth canal
  • Perform an emergency C-section to deliver the baby as soon as possible.

If such action is not taken, both babies and mothers can suffer. For babies, the complications of shoulder dystocia can include:

  • Brachial plexus injuries (a specific type of nerve damage that can be permanent)
  • Cerebral palsy or other cognitive impairments (due to the lack of oxygen during the birth)
  • Death.

Mothers can suffer from severe bleeding and/or damage to their internal organs, like their uterus and bladder.

After Shoulder Dystocia Birth Injuries

While shoulder dystocia is a medical emergency, the medical professionals in the delivery room should:

  • Be trained on how to recognize the signs of this complication
  • Know how to properly respond in order to facilitate the delivery and minimize damage to mothers and babies.

When doctors, nurses or others don’t identify and/or properly respond to shoulder dystocia and babies are born with birth injuries, mothers:

  • May be entitled to compensation for their infants’ injuries, medical bills and losses
  • Should consult with the experienced Portland birth injury attorneys at the Savage Law Firm to learn more about their rights and options.

Portland Birth Injury Lawyers at the Savage Law Firm

Since 1977, the Portland birth injury attorneys at the Savage Law Firm have been dedicated to advocating the rights of families who newborns have suffered birth injuries due to medical negligence. At every stage of our clients’ cases, we are committed to providing each of them with the highest quality legal services, and we will work diligently to help our clients obtain the best possible outcomes to their cases.

Contact Our Portland Birth Injury Lawyers Today

Although we know that no amount of money can ever make up for the serious injuries your newborn may have suffered, obtaining the financial support you need and deserve in the aftermath of birth injuries can be critical to ensuring your injured baby gets the treatments he or she needs. Our Portland birth injury attorneys encourage you to learn more about your rights and case by setting up a free initial consult.

Call us at 503-222-0200 (in Portland) or at 206-957-7272 (in Seattle). You can also email us using the form on this page. We represent clients in Oregon and Washington from our offices in Portland and Seattle.