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What is shoulder dystocia during delivery?

Many women are able to give birth to a baby vaginally without having any complications. For some women, the size of her pelvis compared to the size of the baby doesn't make a vaginal birth possible. The size of the baby's shoulders, for example, can get stuck in the birth canal. That leads to a shoulder dystocia, which is a very serious birth issue.

What is shoulder dystocia?

When shoulder dystocia occurs, the baby's head is delivered normally through the birth canal. The issue occurs when the baby's shoulders aren't able to fit through the birth canal. This causes the baby to get stuck in the birth canal with only the head delivered.

What are the complications of shoulder dystocia?

The complications of shoulder dystocia include a slow delivery or birth. Sadly, this condition can be fatal for the baby because of lack of oxygen. In some cases, brain damage is possible. The baby might also suffer injuries to the nerves in the arm, hand, or shoulder. For the mother, tearing of the vagina, rectum, cervix, or uterus might occur. She might also suffer from heavy bleeding after the birth.

Can shoulder dystocia be prevented?

Monitoring the baby's size can sometimes help to prevent shoulder dystocia since the woman could undergo a c-section if it is believed that shoulder dystocia will occur. That, however, isn't a foolproof option since there are some instances in which no indication of the issue is present prior to the birth.

Taking swift action when shoulder dystocia is noted is crucial to minimize the negative effects of the condition. When prompt action isn't take to deliver the baby's body quickly, the mother and baby might suffer. That could lead to medical malpractice claims based on the injuries suffered.

Source: March of Dimes, "Shoulder Dystocia," accessed June 03, 2016

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