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Medical Emergency: Shoulder Dystocia Management

Shoulder dystocia is an emergency condition which occurs during the second stage of labor. This medical emergency occurs due to the fact that one of the baby’s shoulders becomes stuck, once the baby’s head has been born. One or both of the baby’s shoulders can get stuck behind the pelvic bones of the mother.

Medical Emergency: What Is Shoulder Dystocia?

There are different factors contributing to this emergency, like:

  • Macrosomia – having a big baby
  • Small pelvis
  • Baby’s position during birth, etc.

Luckily it is a rare emergency in vaginal deliveries (Read also; Common Labor Complications).

Once shoulder dystocia occurs, the baby needs to be born quickly in order for him/her to continue to get enough oxygen. While the baby is stuck into this position in the birth canal, the umbilical cord that supplies the baby with oxygen, blood and necessary ingredients is squashed, which will make your baby suffer for oxygen and blood very quickly.

As mentioned, luckily shoulder dystocia is a rare complication during vaginal childbirth. It is also a complication that can’t be predicted.

Risk Factors for Shoulder Dystocia

Some factors can increase the odds of shoulder dystocia, like: delivering a big baby, usually a baby weighing more than 4 kg, if the pregnant woman has already had shoulder dystocia problems in the previous childbirths, if the pregnant woman is overweight, is there is need for assisted birth using forceps or ventouse, if the labor is induced, if the pregnant women suffers from gestational diabetes, etc.

However, regardless of the above mentioned risk factors for shoulder dystocia, this medical emergency can occur also in women without any of the above mentioned risk factors.

Shoulder Dystocia Management with

The only symptom of shoulder dystocia is a stalled delivery after the baby’s head has been born. This medical emergency should be recognized on time by the doctor and midwives in order to help you deliver the baby as quick as possible.

Shoulder dystocia is something that can’t be prevented, due to the fact that is an unpredictable medical emergency. However, if one or more of the possible risk factors are present, considering other birth methods like C-section delivery are a vise option, comparing to vaginal delivery.

What Are the Complications of Shoulder Dystocia?

If the medical emergency is recognized on time from the doctors and midwifes, usually the baby is born without any consequences. Complications for the baby include: lack of oxygen, fracture of the collarbone or arm, injury of the brachial plexus or even paralysis.

Complications for the mother include: hemorrhaging, bruising or tearing of the genital area, bruising of the bladder, uterine rupture, etc.

What are the options once Shoulder dystocia occurs?

Once shoulder dystocia occurs, your doctor will decide which of the following options for delivering the baby is the safest for you:

  • Manipulated vaginal delivery – your doctor could use a variety of maneuvers which can help your baby be born
  • C-section – if the maneuvers don’t work


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This website contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not medical advice.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.