Shoulder Dystocia Negligence Claims

Shoulder dystocia is a complication that occurs during labour in which a baby’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pelvic bone during vaginal delivery. Medical negligence during the attempt to manage a baby’s shoulder dystocia could result in serious injury to both mother and child. If you believe that medical professionals made serious mistakes during your child’s birth and were negligent in resolving your baby’s shoulder dystocia you could be entitled to make a compensation claim.

Medical negligence and shoulder dystocia injuries

Medical professionals have a prescribed protocol to follow when a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck, and these procedures resolve the issue in most births fairly easily. However, in some cases attempts to dislodge the baby’s shoulder are more difficult and the subsequent delay in releasing the shoulder, the use of excessive force, or the negligent actions of the medical staff – could result in serious injury to the mother and child.

Injuries and complications for the baby may include:

BPI injuries can also occur without shoulder dystocia and in babies born by caesarean section.

  • Fractures in the shoulder, arm or collarbone.
  • A lack of oxygen supply to the baby. During a case of shoulder dystocia, the baby can get stuck with its head out of the birth canal, but the shoulder and the rest of the body still caught behind the mother’s pubic bone. When this occurs, pressure may increase on the baby’s neck, resulting in a lack of oxygen and blood supply – which could potentially result in brain damage or even death.
  • Oxygen deprivation to the baby may also occur due to compression on the umbilical cord. As the shoulder becomes stuck behind the pubic bone, it can trap the baby’s head and put a significant amount of pressure on the umbilical cord. This restricts oxygen and blood flow to the baby which could potentially result in brain damage or even death.  

Injuries and complications for the mother may include:

  • Postpartum hemorrhaging, i.e. heavy bleeding after giving birth.
  • Severe tearing of the perineum, which is the space between the vagina and the rectum. These third and fourth degree birth tears may require surgery to repair the injury.
  • Vaginal lacerations
  • Cervical tears
  • Bladder rupture
  • A uterine rupture, which is when the uterus tears
  • Symphyseal separation
  • Sacroiliac joint dislocation
  • Lateral femoral cutaneous neuropathy.

Medical negligence associated with attempts to resolve a baby’s shoulder becoming stuck, could include:

  • The failure to assess the mother’s health to determine the risk of shoulder dystocia occurring e.g., obesity, maternal diabetes, gestational diabetes, previous birth involved this condition.
  • The failure to assess the baby’s health and development to determine the risk of shoulder dystocia occurring e.g., large size, wide frame.
  • The failure to plan for a potential shoulder dystocia delivery and offer the mother a planned or elective C-section.
  • Failure to follow the correct protocol and / or negligent medical care when trying to perform procedures designed to dislodge the baby’s shoulder i.e., poor or negligent treatment and / or excessive use of force.
  • Carrying out unnecessary medical intervention when attempting to dislodge
    the shoulder i.e., performing an episiotomy when one was not required.
  • Any delay in performing the correct procedures to referring the mother for an emergency C-Section.

Contact our birth negligence solicitors today

Devonshires Claims’ medical negligence and compensation claims experts will carefully assess your shoulder dystocia birth injury case and will tenaciously fight to obtain the maximum compensation for the injuries you and your baby have sustained. 

Devonshires Claims’ medical negligence solicitors are members of the Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

Our maternity compensation claims service provides:

  • A free no-obligation case evaluation
  • Advice on the probability of success for a shoulder dystocia claim and the amount of compensation you could potentially obtain
  • Friendly, compassionate and experienced claims experts
  • A No Win No Fee agreement i.e. you will not incur any costs if your claim is not successful*.
  • Access to a network of medical experts and specialist barristers

Our experts work hard to secure victims of medical negligence the justice and compensation they deserve.

For more information on Devonshires Claims ‘No Win No Fee’ shoulder dystocia claims service or to start your free no-obligation case evaluation, please contact us today on  0333 900 8787, email admin@devonshiresclaims.co.uk or complete our online form.

Shoulder Dystocia FAQs

Shoulder dystocia is a condition when a baby’ shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone.  This can delay the baby’s birth and requires immediate intervention.

According to statistics published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists it occurs in only 0.7% of vaginal births.

Because shoulder dystocia is a medical emergency, action must be taken urgently by the medical team.

Obstetricians and other medical professionals are trained to perform procedures designed to dislodge the shoulder. If one procedure does not resolve the situation, they will then attempt the next one as advised in Shoulder Dystocia Guidelines published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

 

These include:

  1. To advise the mother to stop pushing.
  2. To attempt the McRobert’s manoeuvre, in which the mother bends her legs up toward the chest. This creates more room as the pelvis widens and the part of the spine in the lower back flattens. If this does not work, the medical staff will move to the next procedure.
  3. Suprapubic pressure: Pressure is applied to the mother’s abdomen at a 45-degree angle in order to move the trapped shoulder below the mother’s public bone.
  4. Wood’s Screw manoeuvre: If the above have not been successful in dislodging the shoulder, the obstetrician will place his hand inside the birth canal, next to the baby’s shoulder and rotate the baby in order to dislodge the trapped shoulder.
  5. Episiotomy: A episiotomy is a surgical cut to the area between the vagina and the anus. If the above procedures fail, this cut is designed to create more room for the baby to move.
  6. Zavenelli manoeuvre: This technique is rarely used. The obstetrician will push the baby back into the vagina, and an emergency C-Section will be carried out.
  7. Symphsectomy: This technique is rarely used. It involves a surgeon cutting the mother’s public bone to create room for the baby’s shoulders to come through.

 

Carrying out any of these shoulder dystocia techniques in a negligent manner i.e., not performing the procedure correctly, using excessive force, performing a negligent or unnecessary episiotomy or other technique could constitute medical negligence.

 

Although shoulder dystocia usually occurs unexpectedly, there are some risk factors which may increase the risk of occurrence. These include:

Factors Associated With the Mother:

“Elective cesarean section should be considered to reduce the potential morbidity for pregnancies complicated by pre-existing or gestational diabetes, regardless of treatment, with an estimated fetal weight of greater than 4.5kg”.

(Source: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/gtg_42.pdf )

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) 30 or more
  • The mother had a pervious pregnancy which involved shoulder dystocia. In this situation, the rate of having another shoulder dystocia birth is 10 times higher than the general population.

 

Factors Associated with the baby:

 

Factors Associated With the Labour:

  • The labour is induced
  • Oxytocin or related drugs are administered
  • The labour is long i.e., over 42 weeks
  • Prolonged 1st and 2nd stage of labour
  • Assisted birth i.e., it involves the use of equipment such as forceps or ventouse.

(Source: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-information-leaflets/pregnancy/pi-shoulder-dystocia.pdf )

 

shoulder dystocia 1

(Source: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/gtg_42.pdf)

To make a compensation claim for shoulder dystocia negligence, speak to one of our birth injury solicitors who will take the time to listen to the details of your case in an empathetic and caring manner and advise if you have grounds for a claim.  They will assess if you were owed a duty of care, whether the duty of care was breached, and whether breaching the duty of care caused your injuries.  If these three facts are established and can be backed up with appropriate medical evidence, it may then be confirmed that you have a valid claim.

Your solicitor will handle your case for you, including collating the necessary evidence (medical records and correspondence) and will write to the organisation responsible for your care laying out the grounds for your medical negligence claim.

 

Shoulder Dystocia Claims Statistics

According to statistics published by the NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA), 46% of shoulder dystocia injuries were associated with a poor standard of care.

Shoulder dystocia compensation claims made up nearly 5% of the total NHS maternity negligence claims between 2000-2010, according to statistics published in the report:  Ten Years of Maternity Claims An Analysis of NHS Litigation Authority Data  (1st April 2000 and 31st March 2010).

The most common reasons (specified on records) for the shoulder dystocia negligence claim were inappropriate manoeuvre and excessive traction.

shoulder dystocia compensation
shoulder dystocia claims

Yes; the ‘Limitation’ period to bring a claim for medical negligence is commonly three years from the date of the injury or three years from your date of knowledge of the injury.  This means that if you only became aware of the injury caused to you or your baby weeks, months, or even years after the injury was caused, the three-year period may only start to run from that date. You should contact a specialist maternity claims solicitor as soon as possible in order to avoid missing this date.

Yes. Devonshires Claims can provide:

  • A ‘No Win No Fee’ compensation claims service for injuries associated with shoulder dystocia negligence.
  • A ‘No Win No Fee’ arrangement is also known as a ‘Conditional Fee Agreement’. Under a No Win No Fee agreement, you will not be charged any costs if your case is not successful*.

If you win your case you will pay a maximum of 25% from your damages in solicitor’s fees**.

Find further information on ‘No Win No Fee’ medical negligence claims in our explainer.

Compensation claims for shoulder dystocia mistakes and injuries not only reflect the pain and suffering experienced but also:

  • Allow victims to obtain justice for the mistreatment and negligence they experienced
  • Highlight failings in clinical practice, standards of care and protocols
  • Provide families with an explanation of the incident and an apology if failings are acknowledged

The compensation payment will depend on several factors:

  • The pain and suffering of the victim
  • The impact of the delay and / or negligence on health and quality of life – including current and future care requirements, medical aids, home adaptations or other necessary assistance
  • Any financial losses resulting from the injuries – including past loss of earnings, medical expenses, travel expenses and equipment costs
  • Any future financial losses, e.g., loss of earnings, loss of promotion prospects, pension

Compensation for shoulder dystocia negligence or injury fall into two main categories:

  • General compensation (General Damages): this includes compensation for pain and suffering and the impact of the injury on lifestyle and quality of life – for you and/or your child.
  • Financial losses and expenses (Special Damages): these include the costs associated with private treatment, care support, travel expenses, other medical expenses, specialist equipment and loss of income.

Start your birth injury compensation claim

Contact Devonshires Claims medical negligence solicitors for advice on making your shoulder dystocia compensation claim or other birth injury claim. We provide a free no-obligation case evaluation as well as a ‘No Win No Fee‘ agreement, so there are no upfront costs to start your claim and nothing to pay if your case is not successful*. To start your free case evaluation, contact our birth injury claims experts today on 0333 900 8787, email admin@devonshiresclaims.co.uk or complete our online form.


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An out of Court settlement was agreed in excess of £180,000.


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The Claimant suffered a third-degree perineal tear during childbirth.  She underwent birth tear repair surgery which was performed negligently and further corrective surgery was required a week later.

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What our clients say:
Karen Cathcart worked extremely hard on my representation, she was friendly and accessible, and did make me feel that someone had ‘owned’ the problem. She did secure a good outcome. Consequently I would be more than happy to recommend Karen to friends and family. - P.G.
Devonshires solicitors are extremely good. Sandra Wheeler who helped me a lot is very kind; she always gave me good advice. A few times during the case, when I was nervous or disappointed, she encouraged me to go ahead. This case was 'no win no fee*', so they didn't charge me a single penny. Thank you to the Devonshires' team. I will definitely recommend you in the future if anyone needs a solicitor because your team is so helpful and do their job very well. - Mrs Kaur
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