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Expectant mothers may be told by their doctor that they run the risk for a birth injury called shoulder dystocia. This occurs during labor and birth when one or both of a baby’s shoulder shoulders are caught in the mother’s pelvis. The condition arises occasionally in Massachusetts and the rest of the U.S. To be specific, it comes up in 0.2% to 0.3% of pregnancies.

While any mother is liable to experience it, there are certain risk factors to keep in mind. One is macrosomia, or an unusually large baby. Diabetes in the mother, whether preexisting or gestational, will raise the risk as well. In general, doctors may recommend a C-section when a baby weighs 5 kilograms or more or when the baby weighs at least 4.5 kilograms and the mother has diabetes.

Mothers who have experienced shoulder dystocia before also have a higher risk for it. Having a multiple birth may contribute as can obesity in the mother. If mothers receive an epidural for their labor pains, or if the doctors use forceps or vacuums to assist in delivery, shoulder dystocia becomes more likely.

In most cases, babies are born safely. In others, they may fracture their arm or collarbone or incur nerve damage that makes their arm weak or limp. Oxygen deprivation, brain damage and death occur in very rare cases.

Under medical malpractice law, families of an injured baby may be eligible for compensation if the injuries were clearly the result of medical negligence. It might be hard to prove this because it requires knowledge of the standards of medical care. A lawyer may be able to assist with the claim, especially with the building up of evidence and the negotiating of a settlement. Third-party investigators and medical experts might come in to help, too.