How a stuck baby can suffer a brain injury during birth. The more technical way to state this is can shoulder dystocia lead to a brain injury. For parents who must ask this question, or who must research this issue, questions can abound. This is because this issue can be rarely discussed during pregnancy. As a matter of fact, some people have no idea that baby’s can “get stuck” during a vaginal delivery.


My focus in this article is to help you understand from a medical legal standpoint some of the critical issues present when shoulder dystocia is present, and how a baby can suffer a brain injury in some instances.




Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby becomes trapped behind the mother’s pelvis. Due to the real possibility of the umbilical cord becoming compressed, shoulder dystocia is a delivery room emergency and must be treated as such. Doctors must use the maneuvers and techniques they are taught to help free the baby. In addition, because an emergency is created, doctors and nurses must have quick and accurate communication lines with each other.


The following can be risk factors for shoulder dystocia:

  • Increasing Fetal Weight: This can be seen as fetal macrosomia. Doctors should be on the lookout if the baby is greater than 4000g, or 8.8 lbs
  • Maternal Body Mass Index: Mothers who are obese present with an increased risk of shoulder dystocia. An increased fetal birth rate can be tied to a mother’s obesity in some cases.
  • Prolonged Second Stage Of Labor
  • Prior Shoulder Dystocia Delivery
  • Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes: Diabetes, and gestational diabetes pose an increased risk of shoulder dystocia because both conditions can increase the fetal weight.
  • Post-Term Pregnancy: A pregnancy more than 42 weeks




I briefly mentioned above how umbilical cord compression can occur during shoulder dystocia. This is because as the baby moves down the birth canal during a shoulder dystocia condition, the umbilical cord can become pinned. When this happens, a reduced level of blood and oxygen can occur. Some commentators note that the umbilical cord is the baby’s lifeline. In many ways this is true because a baby receives a lot of nutrients from mother.


Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, or HIE is a medical condition which can occur when a reduced level of blood and oxygen is present. During a compressed umbilical cord, this is a serious fear, that the baby’s blood and oxygen levels will be cut off to the point of a brain injury. In extreme cases, not only can a brain injury occur, but the baby can die.


For parents who learn that their baby got stuck during delivery, one question to ask is whether the baby was at risk for oxygen deprivation. In certain cases, injury to the brachial plexus nerves will also be a concern for the baby.




Hopefully now you can understand how a stuck baby can suffer a brain injury during a vaginal delivery. If you have further questions, just give me a call.


I can be reached for further discussion at 301-850-4832. I talk with families all the time about birth trauma related injuries and I would be happy to listen to your story.


Marcus B. Boston, Esq.

Boston Law Group, LLC

2 Wisconsin Circle, Suite 700

Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815


1-833-4 BABY HELP

Marcus Boston is a Maryland medical malpractice attorney who helps people navigate the Maryland childbirth injury and medical malpractice process to get money for their injuries caused by the carelessness of doctors and hospitals. BLG handles cases in Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, Montgomery County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, and all other Maryland Counties.