Shoulder dystocia is a rare but serious condition that can occur during childbirth. It must be managed properly or the mother and baby are both at risk of injury and other complications.
This condition occurs when a baby’s head has been delivered, but one or both shoulders become stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. This can lead to difficult and prolonged labor, posing risks to both the mother and the baby.
Risks for the baby
Babies who have shoulder dystocia often suffer nerve damage because of the maneuvers necessary to deliver them safely. Brachial plexus injuries, fractures of the clavicle or humerus, and contusions can result from excessive force applied during delivery.
Shoulder dystocia can also lead to the baby receiving a low oxygen supply to the brain because of compression of the umbilical cord. This may cause neurological damage or even death. This type of injury is one of the primary reasons why immediate delivery becomes critical in this situation.
Risks for the mother
The mother can experience postpartum hemorrhage, which is excessive bleeding. This can lead to death if it’s not managed. Some women may need to have a blood transfusion because of massive blood loss. She may also need surgical repair of the vagina, cervix or perineum because of the trauma to those structures.
Prevention and Management
While shoulder dystocia can’t always be predicted, certain factors increase the risk, such as maternal obesity, diabetes or a history of shoulder dystocia in previous deliveries. If you’re at risk, your healthcare provider should discuss potential complications and management options with you.
During delivery, your medical team should be prepared to employ various techniques to resolve shoulder dystocia. In extreme cases, a cesarean section may be necessary.
If your child has suffered injuries due to improper management of shoulder dystocia or you’ve been injured, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice claim.