Does the HELPERR Mnemonic Really Help Prevent Birth Injuries?

Shoulder dystocia (SD) is one of the most dangerous possible birth complications. When babies are too large to quickly drift down their mothers’ narrow birth canals, permanent brain damage is about five minutes away. The umbilical cord almost literally strangles the baby, cutting off oxygen to the brain. The brain responds by shutting down various parts of the body, usually starting with the baby’s extremities and then moving to more vital areas.

Medical teams have a set way to deal with SD emergencies. But the steps in the HELPERR mnemonic are often not very helpful. In fact, they often do more harm than good. If your child was injured due to medical negligence, a Marietta personal injury attorney can usually obtain substantial victims for these victims in court.

Call for Help

Although this first step appears to be second nature, physicians often skip it. Many doctors see calling for help as a sign of weakness. So, instead of asking for help, doctors immediately employ other, and more dangerous, means.

Perform an Episiotomy

This step is sorely out of date, yet doctors are supposed to turn to it almost immediately. These incisions on the mother’s perineum (area between the genitals and anus) are supposed to safely widen the mother’s birth canal. But episiotomies are neither safe nor effective. As a result, in 2006, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advised doctors to skip this step. But many still rely on episiotomies.

Roll the Mother Onto Her Legs

Repositioning the mother, a technique called the McRoberts Maneuver, works about 80% of the time. Because of this high success rate, and relative safety for the baby, this birth intervention should probably be higher on the chart. 

Apply Suprapubic Pressure

Basically, suprapubic pressure is chest compressions on the mother’s stomach. The doctor tries to push the baby out of the mother. Newborns are so fragile that any excessive force, even something like suprapubic pressure, could cause a serious birth injury, like a head injury or a broken bone.

Perform Enter Rotational Maneuvers

By this time, the five-minute clock is probably down to about two-and-a-half minutes. That is not enough time to prep for a crash C-section. As a result, the medical interventions become increasingly desperate. Enter rotational maneuvers is a euphemism for reaching into the mother’s vagina and trying to pull the baby off the cord and out of the mother’s womb. That task is almost impossible, especially if the doctor uses any significant physical force, they will probably seriously injure the baby.

Remove Posterior Limb

You read that right. At this point, doctors reason that giving birth to a moderately disabled child is better than giving birth to a severely disabled one. The risk of serious fetal injury is incredibly high, since doctors essentially perform these procedures blind.

Roll the Mother Onto Her Hands and Knees

This last step is basically an enhanced McRoberts Maneuver. It hardly ever works, at least not right away. Since the five-minute clock has probably expired, doctors typically use this emergency maneuver to deliver the baby as soon as possible without additional risk of injury. SD babies delivered between five and 10 minutes usually have severe brain damage, but they normally survive.

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