LGA (large for gestational age) fetuses are greatly at risk for shoulder dystocia and birth injuries, and although the red flags should be easy to see, many doctors overlook them.
Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby is too large to fit through the mother’s narrow birth canal during delivery. Although the baby does not move down, the umbilical cord almost always keeps dropping, creating pressure on the tiny baby’s neck. This pressure causes hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain), and in less than five minutes, permanent brain damage begins. This process usually ends in cerebral palsy, an incurable lifelong condition.
Why Birth Injuries Occur
Mothers who are overweight, have diabetes, and have previously delivered large babies are high-risk mothers in this area. Yet many doctors dismiss these warning signs, reasoning that the mother is only “borderline” diabetic or whatever, so there is no need to take special precautions.
In some other situation, particularly if the mother is a walk-in who has received little or no prenatal care, doctors are simply caught off guard. If what should be a routine delivery suddenly becomes complicated, many doctors panic, because doctors are people too. And, like the rest of us, many doctors make poor decisions when they are under extreme pressure.
Rather than summon help, which some professionals consider a sign of weakness, many delivery doctors believe they can handle shoulder dystocia on their own. So, these physicians often resort to:
- Pulling on the Baby: Many times, shoulder dystocia babies will be partially effaced, meaning that part of their body is outside the mother’s vagina. But these babies are so tiny and fragile that any pulling can cause serious injury, such as Erb’s Palsy.
- Vacuum Pump: The doctor places a cap on the baby’s head. The cap is connected to a surgical vacuum, and the doctor quite literally sucks the baby out. Most hospitals have all-metal vacuum pumps, and the cap often causes surface cranial damage or brain damage.
- Forceps: These instruments, which are essentially giant salad tongs that the doctor uses to pull out the baby, often cause similar injuries.
- Episiotomy: Years ago, doctors routinely made incisions near the mother’s vagina to widen the birth canal, but today, doctors know that such incisions often cause uncontrollable bleeding and other serious side-effects.
Because the infants suffer lifelong injuries, compensation in these cases is usually substantial, as it includes money for both past and future economic losses, such as medical bills and future lost wages, as well as noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Juries often award significant punitive damages in these cases as well, if there is clear and convincing evidence that the doctor intentionally disregarded a known risk.
Count on Experienced Attorneys
A few moments of neglect can cause a permanent injury. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed.
From our office in Brandon, Reed & Reed helps clients in Tampa, New Tampa, Plant City, East Hillsborough County and throughout the state of Florida.