By Yeexin Richelle/shutterstock

Know All About Shoulder Dystocia During Pregnancy

by | December 24, 2018

Shoulder dystocia is a rare complication of labor and delivery where one or both of the infant’s shoulders get stuck in behind the mother’s pelvic bone as the baby moves down into the birth canal.

Shoulder Dystocia
By LightField Studios/shutterstock

The births of my first two children were extremely traumatic for my babies, and also for me. Both of my boys had shoulder dystocia. My first son even broke his clavicle as he emerged. His shoulders were just too big for my birth canal, and in my opinion, I should have been sectioned after three hours of pushing and getting nowhere. My poor child was blue when he was born and struggled to breathe and cry for what seemed like an eternity. It was the scariest moment of my entire life.

I definitely should have been offered a c-section the second time around, as the best predictor of shoulder dystocia, is having had one previously. After an hour of pushing the midwife pressed the emergency button, I got chills. I was terrified that the outcome would be much worse this time. Thankfully He was born healthy and intact.


I changed doctors for my third baby as I was petrified of what might happen this time around. My new obstetrician took one look at my labor and delivery history and was horrified that I hadn’t been offered a c-section, at least the second time around. Towards the end of my third pregnancy, I was sent to a fetal sonogram specialist and was monitored very closely. When it was showing that my daughter was measuring big around the shoulders, it was recommended very strongly to me to have a scheduled c-section. I followed that recommendation very happily, and my daughter was born without complications. It was the most peaceful, non-traumatic birth I’d ever experienced, even though I was cut open.


How Common Is It?

About one percent of babies born vaginally experience this problem. It is more common in larger babies. Women who’ve previously delivered a baby with shoulder dystocia or those who have gestational diabetes are also at a higher risk. Going past your due date also increases the risk.

What are the symptoms?

A stalled delivery after the baby’s head emerges from the birth canal.

Should you be worried?

There are risks for both mother and baby for complications of shoulder dystocia. Most of these are a result of maneuvers that may need to be taken to dislodge the baby from the birth canal. Complications such as; nerve damage, breaks in the baby’s clavicle or arms, hemorrhaging, uterine rupture, tearing and other pelvic injuries, are rare. In the most extreme cases, the baby can experience lack of oxygen which could lead to brain damage or even death.

Is there anything that you can do to prevent shoulder dystocia?

Keeping your weight gain within the recommended range may help prevent your baby from getting stuck in the birth canal. If you do face this problem during labor, your healthcare provider may try to change your position or apply some pressure to the top of your pelvis to help the baby be delivered. If your doctor anticipates that shoulder dystocia is possible they may schedule a c-section.

If you think you and your baby may be at the risk for dystocia, please talk to your healthcare provider.

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Julie Nealon

Associate Editor, New York USA | Contactable via [email protected]



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