(Stuck Shoulder Delivery)
Pronounced: showl-dur dis-TO-see-ah
Dystocia is a term used to describe the difficult delivery of a baby. In shoulder dystocia, the baby's head can be delivered, but the shoulders cannot pass through the birth canal. The shoulders are too wide to fit and become lodged behind the mother's pubic bone or the opening of the birth canal.
Typically, babies born with shoulder dystocia do not suffer long-term complications. If complications do occur, they are usually because the baby has become stuck too long in the birth canal.
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
There are a variety of reasons why a baby's shoulders may become lodged during delivery. But, the most common reasons include:
Delivering very large babies with unusually high birth weights
- Often caused by diabetes or mothers who are significantly overweight
- Mother's pelvic opening being too small to allow the baby's shoulders to fit
Narrow Pelvic Opening
The following factors increase the chance of a baby suffering from shoulder dystocia:
- Mothers who are diabetic
- Mothers who are significantly overweight
- Mothers, often small themselves, who may have a small pelvic bone
Signs and Symptoms
The signs of shoulder dystocia become apparent during delivery . The delivery does not progress because of the baby's shoulders being lodged in the birth canal behind the pubic bone. Signs also include very large babies who are likely to have problems being delivered vaginally.
Shoulder dystocia cannot actually be diagnosed until delivery. It can sometimes be predicted by determining the weight and size of the fetus and whether a vaginal delivery is safe for the mother and baby. An ultrasound
Your doctor will decide on the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
- Manipulated vaginal delivery—There are a variety of maneuvers that the doctor can do to help the mother deliver the baby.
- Cesarean delivery
Shoulder dystocia cannot be prevented. Babies who are at risk of shoulder dystocia because of large size can be evaluated prior to delivery with regular prenatal care and ultrasound testing. Women with diabetes or who are very overweight should have the size of their babies estimated. Babies at risk for shoulder dystocia should have a Cesarean delivery scheduled.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Cesarean section. US National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002911.htm . Accessed July 2, 2007.
Shoulder dystocia. University of Michigan Health System website. Available at: http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/wha/wha_shldys_crs.htm . Accessed July 2, 2007.
Shoulder dystocia. Managing complications in pregnancy and childbirth: a guide for midwives and doctors. World Health Organization website. Available at: http://www.who.int/reproductive-health/impac/Symptoms/Shoulder_dystocia_S83_S85.html . Accessed July 2, 2007.
Last reviewed November 2009 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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