Shoulder Dystocia – UK Medical Negligence Solicitor

Shoulder dystocia may occur as a result of medical negligence. The onset of this condition is often unpredictable, requires immediate medical intervention and can result in serious injury to a child. The problem occurs when the baby’s shoulder becomes trapped behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery. This situation is fraught with danger and is a medical emergency, even for a skilled midwife or doctor. Shoulder dystocia becomes apparent after the baby’s head has emerged from the birth canal and the shoulders fail to follow easily on their own or with the mother’s unassisted pushing, or with gentle assistance from the midwife or doctor. The Greek word ‘dystocia’ literally means “not moving”, and refers to the shoulders which are stuck. Shoulder dystocia injuries can range from mild to serious and from temporary to permanent and may include Erbs Palsy, serious damage to the brachial plexus nerves and fractures of the arm or clavicle. Potential injuries arising from shoulder dystocia medical negligence can be severe, long term disabilities and attract very substantial compensatory awards of damages.

Medical Protocols

Accepted medical protocol exists to relieve the problem including: –

  • changing the position of the baby by manoeuvres
  • repositioning the mother
  • deliberately breaking the baby’s clavicle bone
  • emergency caesarean section
  • deliberately breaking the mother’s pelvic bone
  • deep episiotomy
  • traction in a horizontal plane to avoid damaging the brachial plexus;
  • McRobert’s manoeuvre
  • pressure over the pubic area

Risk Factors

Risk factors for shoulder dystocia include:-

  • mothers diabetes
  • large baby
  • maternal obesity
  • short maternal stature
  • gestation over 40 weeks
  • contracted or flat pelvis
  • protracted first stage of labour
  • maternal weight increases by more than 35 lbs
  • prolonged second stage of labour
  • history of large babies
  • history of similar previous problems
  • 8 years or more since the mother’s last labour


To prove shoulder dystocia medical negligence it is necessary to establish: –

Causation of Injury:

It is must be shown that the negligence of the doctor caused or materially contributed to the injuries.

Duty of Care:

A duty of care must be established and the relationship that exists between a doctor and a patient is usually sufficient.

Breach of Duty of Care:

To establish that a breach of the duty has occurred it must be shown that whatever the doctor did or did not do fell below the standard of a competent medical practitioner.

Specialist Medical Negligence Solicitors

A specialist UK medical negligence solicitor will have a client centred approach and will provide committed and vigorous representation. You can rely on a specialist advocate to take care of your child’s shoulder dystocia medical negligence claim in a comprehensive, helpful, sympathetic and professional manner. Most lawyers will deal with your child’s case using a contingency fee arrangement (no win no fee) or they will obtain public funding through Legal Aid. Your lawyers will always respect your confidentiality and will explain legal issues clearly and without jargon. Your calls will be answered promptly, and faxes, e-mails and letters will, where possible be dealt with on the same day as they are received. You will receive a complete professional service from lawyers who specialise in claiming compensation for personal injury.

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