Although it is not common for doctors in California and around the country to induce labor until a pregnancy has reached 39 weeks, it may be safer to do so if the baby is unusually large. By inducing labor at 37 or 38 weeks, the baby will have more room to navigate the birth canal without getting its shoulders stuck. If the baby’s shoulder does get stuck inside of its mother, it could lead to nerve damage or shoulder fracture.
The risk of shoulder dystocia is about 1 percent in births involving normally-sized babies. However, the risk increases to 10 percent in babies that are larger than normal at birth. In a study involving several European hospitals, 800 women who had fetuses in the 95 percentile of weight based on gestational age were split into two groups. In one group, the women were induced early while women in the other group were simply monitored unless it was medically necessary to induce labor.
Babies delivered by those who were induced suffered shoulder dystocia in 2 percent of all births. This was compared to 6 percent for babies who were delivered by mothers who were merely monitored. However, doctors say that there are other risks that need to be considered before concluding that early induction is always best for the infant in this type of scenario.
If a baby is injured during delivery, the parents may want to consider taking legal action against the doctor under whose direction the birthing procedure was performed. In addition, the health care facility where the delivery took place may also be held responsible in some instances. The parents of the child may be entitled to compensation for the costs of medical treatment and potential long-term care costs.