What Are the Risks of Shoulder Dystocia?

Reviewed on 10/29/2020
Shoulder dystocia refers to a condition where after the delivery of the fetus's head
Shoulder dystocia refers to a condition where after the delivery of the fetus’s head

Shoulder dystocia presents risks to both the mother and fetus. Problems for the fetus can include:

Risks for the mother can include:

What is shoulder dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia refers to a condition where after the delivery of the fetus’s head, the fetus’s shoulder may get stuck inside the mother’s pelvis. In most cases, the child comes out normally; however, it may pose a severe threat to the mother and the child. Dystocia causes slow or difficult labor or birth. Shoulder dystocia affects 0.6-0.7% of women during deliveries.

Shoulder dystocia is a medical emergency because it may result in life-threatening fetus injury.

Who is at risk of getting shoulder dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia can affect any woman; however, women with certain risk factors are at an increased risk of getting shoulder dystocia. Risk factors include:

  • Macrosomia: In this condition, the baby weighs more than eight pounds (4000 g). Macrosomia can increase the risk of shoulder dystocia. However, most of the fetuses with macrosomia are born safely. Sometimes, fetuses with a healthy weight have dystocia.
  • Preexisting diabetes or gestational diabetes: Having diabetes before or during the pregnancy can result in macrosomia.
  • Previous history of shoulder dystocia
  • Being pregnant with multiple fetuses
  • Being overweight or gaining too much weight during pregnancy

Some factors associated with labor and birth include:

  • Getting oxytocin for inducing labor
  • Getting an epidural to help with pain during the labor
  • Having a very short or very long second stage of labor (the second stage of labor involves pushing and delivering the child)
  • Assisted vaginal birth (a method of labor where the physician uses tools like forceps or vacuum to pull the baby through the canal)

How is shoulder dystocia treated?

The physician treats shoulder dystocia in one of the following ways:

  • Episiotomy or a small cut over right or left of the vagina when the physician confronts shoulder dystocia.
  • McRoberts maneuver: Press the woman’s thighs up tight against her belly
  • Suprapubic pressure: Press on your lower belly just above the pubic bone.
  • Reach up into the vagina to try to turn the baby.
  • A C-section or other surgical procedures to release their shoulders. These are done only in severe cases of shoulder dystocia.

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References
Shoulder dystocia refers to a condition where after the delivery of the fetus’s head, the fetus’s shoulder may get stuck inside the mother’s pelvis. In most cases, the child comes out normally; however, it may pose a severe threat to the mother and the child. Dystocia causes slow or difficult labor or birth.

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