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What is shoulder dystocia?

On Behalf of | Mar 14, 2024 | Birth Injuries |

Pregnant women usually expect that everything will go according to plan, or at least somewhat close to plan, when they go through labor and delivery. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Issues during labor and delivery don’t happen all the time, but when they do, proper care is critical.

Shoulder dystocia is a rare but serious condition that can occur during childbirth. It happens when one of a baby’s shoulders gets stuck behind their mother’s pelvic bone after the baby’s head has been delivered. This situation requires immediate medical attention to ensure the safety of both the mother and the baby.

Potential complications

If shoulder dystocia isn’t handled appropriately, it can lead to significant complications for both the baby and the mother. For the baby, the primary risks include birth injuries such as brachial plexus injuries, which can lead to weakness or paralysis in the arm. There’s also a risk of oxygen deprivation if the delivery is delayed, which can result in brain damage or, in severe cases, death.

For the mother, complications can include severe bleeding after delivery. Tears or bruising to the vagina, cervix or rectum are possible. In rare cases, an emergency procedure is needed to resolve the situation.

Signs that shoulder dystocia may occur

Several factors can increase the risk of shoulder dystocia. These factors include a history of shoulder dystocia in previous deliveries, gestational diabetes, a large baby, obesity in the mother and having a prolonged second stage of labor. While it’s not always possible to predict shoulder dystocia, being aware of these risk factors can alert healthcare providers to the potential for complications.

The management of shoulder dystocia requires swift and skilled intervention by the healthcare team. Techniques to resolve shoulder dystocia repositioning the mother’s legs to her chest to widen the pelvis and applying gentle pressure to the mother’s abdomen to assist in dislodging the baby’s shoulder. In all cases, the priority is to deliver the baby safely while minimizing the risk of injury to both the baby and the mother.

When proper care isn’t promptly provided, mother and baby may suffer harm. If medical negligence is a factor in a matter like this, seeking compensation is possible. This should be done quickly. Having a legal representative to assist may benefit victims since these cases tend to be both complex and consequential.