Gestational Diabetes & Other Risks for Shoulder Dystocia
Even in a healthy, low-risk pregnancy, there are still lots of complications that can possibly happen during delivery without any warning. Shoulder dystocia is one of those things.
Shoulder dystocia occurs when a baby’s shoulders become stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. When this happens, doctors need to take extra steps to finish delivering the baby, whether it’s trying to maneuver the baby into a different position or using birth-assisting tools like forceps or vacuum. If not handled correctly, the child could sustain a wide variety of injuries, such as brachial plexus injuries like Erb’s palsy and Klumpke palsy, bone fractures, or cerebral palsy. In some situations, it can also result in infant asphyxia.
Most medical professionals agree that shoulder dystocia is a type of medical event that simply can’t easily be predicted or prevented, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t factors which can put you at a higher risk of it occurring. Two of the biggest risk factors are gestational diabetes or a very large infant size.
If the mother has gestational diabetes, it can have an impact on the way her child stores the fat on its body. Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes tend to store more of the fat in the upper part of their body, which makes it more likely that the baby will have a difficult time fitting through the pelvis.
But even if gestational diabetes isn’t involved, the baby might simply be very large. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one widely-accepted definition of what fetal macrosomia is, which is the medical term for a larger-than-average baby, or a standard procedure on how to handle potential cases of it. And even if there was, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately measure the weight of an infant prior to delivery.
Another major risk factor for shoulder dystocia is if it’s occurred in a previous delivery. If this has happened to you before, it’s very important to make sure your doctor is aware of it because there’s approximately a 10-15% chance that it will occur again. Depending on your situation, your doctor may recommend a C-section delivery. But your doctor should still take the time to discuss your delivery options with you and notify you of the risks involved with each option.
Since birth-assisting tools are often used when shoulder dystocia occurs, that also puts both the mother and child at risk for injury if they’re not used properly. If you’re in the process of finding a doctor to handle your delivery, be sure to ask about their experience and policies on using birth-assisting tools.
Even though shoulder dystocia isn’t easy to predict or prevent, doctors still need to be prepared to handle it safely without injuring you or your child. If shoulder dystocia occurred during your delivery and you believe your child was injured as a result, contact a birth trauma lawyer as soon as possible. Birth trauma is a type of medical malpractice and as such, these types of cases can be very complex. A lawyer will be able to listen to the details of your situation, answer your questions, and figure out what legal options you have.