Shoulder dystocia is a problem during birth. The baby’s head has been born but the shoulders are stuck. The shoulder become trapped against the mother’s pubic bone.
Most babies will be able to be born safely with some help. Sometimes the baby may be stuck in the birth canal too long. In this case complications like the following can occur:
For the baby:
- Lack of oxygen
- Broken arm or collarbone
- Arm nerve damage
For the mother:
- Tearing or bruising of the cervix, rectum, or vagina
- Bruising to the bladder
- Severe bleeding
|The baby's shoulder is lodged behind the mother's pubic bone.|
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The doctor or midwife will know when the birth process stops after the head is born.
Shoulder dystocia may be seen as a risk before birth. Prenatal tests will estimate the size of the fetus and the mother’s pelvis.
An ultrasound may be done before labor. This will help to determine if the baby is too large to fit safely through the birth canal. A vaginal delivery may not be a safe method if the baby is too large.
The care team will act fast if a shoulder dystocia occurs. The goal is to release the baby as fast as possible. This will allow the vaginal birth to continue. The doctor or midwife may:
- Reposition the mother
- Reposition the baby to try to move the shoulder away from the bone
A C-section may be needed if the baby remains stuck in the birth canal.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Stuck Shoulder Delivery)
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org
American Pregnancy Association http://www.americanpregnancy.org
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org
Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca
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