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Advocates identify markers of shoulder dystocia during labor

When parents welcome a new child into the world, it is undoubtedly one of the happiest days of their lives. Leading up to the big day, parents do all they can to avoid pregnancy complications to ensure that the delivery will go smoothly. Unfortunately, health care providers do not always do all they can to prevent serious issues from arising.

One common pregnancy-related injury is shoulder dystocia, which occurs when a baby's shoulder gets caught behind the mother's pelvic bone, which can lead to severe, permanent nerve damage. Fortunately, medical researchers have identified various medical techniques and tests that can identify which mothers and babies are at a high risk of suffering from this condition.

A very basic test that can reveal the risk of shoulder dystocia is a third-trimester ultrasound, which can measure the ratio of the baby's femur length to head circumference. As this ratio strays from the average number, the risk of the condition increases. This seems like a very basic test doctors can perform in order to prepare for the possibility of this serious pregnancy-related complication.

Aside from measurements ascertained through ultrasounds, a family history of shoulder dystocia, maternal diabetes, maternal obesity, major weight gain in pregnancy and fetal weight are all classic indicators of shoulder dystocia that doctors should consider to protect the health of their patients.

Though it's good for parents to be advised of the warning signs of shoulder dystocia, the onus is not on parents to have the medical knowledge necessary to raise concerns of a birth complication. Since researchers have identified basic signs that correlate with shoulder dystocia, doctors should do what they can to identify these indicators and take the appropriate measures to reduce the risk of injury at birth.

Patients should be able to expect the best from their medical professionals, since there is an enormous amount of trust placed in doctor's abilities. When doctors fail to uphold their responsibility and act negligently, patients and their families often have the right to pursue justice for medical malpractice. This way, patients can hold their health care providers responsible and expect to receive high-quality medical care.

Source: Ob.Gyn. News, "Third-Trimester Ultrasound Predicts Shoulder Dystocia," Sherry Boschert, June 15, 2012

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