Things that may increase a baby's chance of shoulder dystocia include:
Mother has diabetes
Mother is significantly overweight
Mother has small stature which may mean small pelvis
A very large baby
Shoulder dystocia in previous birth
Signs and Symptoms
There are no symptoms of shoulder dystocia.
The doctor or midwife will know when the birth process stops after the head is born.
Prenatal tests will estimate the size of the fetus and the mother’s pelvis. These tests may show a risk for shoulder dystocia.
may be done before labor. The doctor will be able to see if the baby is too large to fit safely through the birth canal. A vaginal delivery may not be a safe method if the baby is too large.
The care team will act fast if a shoulder dystocia occurs. The goal is to release the baby as fast as possible. This will allow the vaginal birth to continue. The doctor or midwife may:
Reposition the mother
Reposition the baby to try to move the shoulder away from the bone
may be needed if the baby remains stuck in the birth canal.
Shoulder dystocia cannot always be prevented. If you have a high risk of shoulder dystocia the doctor may offer:
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (College), Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Caughey AB, Cahill AG, Guise JM, Rouse DJ. Safe prevention of the primary cesarean delivery. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014 Mar;210(3):179-93. Reaffirmed 2016.
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Caesarean section. NICE 2011 Nov:CG132PDF, summary can be found in BMJ 2011 Nov 23;343:d7108.
World Health Organization. Managing complications in pregnancy and childbirth: a guide for midwives and doctors. World Health Organization website. Available at: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2007/9241545879_eng.pdf. Updated 2007. Accessed March 19, 2020.
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