Shoulder dystocia is a childbirth complication that occurs when a baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. This condition can lead to complications for both the mother and the baby.
Many of these complications require prompt medical intervention to minimize risks and ensure a safe delivery.
Shoulder dystocia raises the risk of maternal injury during delivery. The prolonged and intense efforts required to dislodge the baby’s shoulder can lead to trauma to the mother’s perineum, vagina or rectum. In severe cases, this trauma may result in tears, lacerations or even uterine rupture. Some of these injuries require surgical intervention. Some may also lead to long-term complications, such as pelvic floor dysfunction.
For the baby, shoulder dystocia poses significant risks. Oxygen deprivation and birth injuries are possible. The prolonged compression of the umbilical cord during delivery can restrict blood flow to the baby, increasing the likelihood of hypoxia or asphyxia. The exertion of force to free the baby’s shoulder can also cause brachial plexus injuries. These injuries can cause nerve damage and may lead to other conditions like Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy. In severe cases, shoulder dystocia can also contribute to fractures or skeletal deformities.
The effects of shoulder dystocia can extend beyond the immediate delivery process. Maternal injuries sustained during childbirth may require extensive rehabilitation. They can also increase the risk of complications in future pregnancies. For babies, birth injuries resulting from shoulder dystocia may lead to developmental delays. They may also result in physical disabilities and the need for ongoing medical care and therapy throughout childhood.
The Cleveland Clinic reports that rates of shoulder dystocia vary based on an infant’s birth weight. By understanding the potential complications associated with shoulder dystocia, health care providers can reduce risks and provide improved care for mothers and babies.