Shoulder dystocia occurs when one or both of the baby’s shoulders become lodged in the mother’s pelvis during delivery. As a result, bones in the collarbone and arm regions can be broken, the brachial plexus area of the spine could be damaged, and in some cases, asphyxiation or suffocation could occur. Part of shoulder dystocia’s danger is its lack of predictability. A medical team can typically only tell that it is going to occur when labor has already begun. However, there are a number of risk factors that can clue a medical team in on the probability of shoulder dystocia, although none are absolute. Risks include:
- Macrosomia, which means your baby’s weight exceeds 4,000 grams. In this case, it is advised to pursue a cesarean section rather than proceeding with natural childbirth.
- Delivering twins or triplets
- Preexisting or gestational diabetes
- Gaining excessive weight during pregnancy
- If the mother has had shoulder dystocia in a previous delivery
If a mother meets these risks, it is advised that a medical team should recommend cesarean section. There are other techniques a medical team can try in order to lessen the risk of shoulder dystocia, too, such as giving the mother an episiotomy or applying subrabic pressure just above the pubic bone. In very severe cases when all other options are exhausted, the medical team may need to break the baby’s collarbone to deliver it.
Medical negligence occurs when medical teams do not exhaust all options to avoid complications due to shoulder dystocia. While shoulder dystocia is nearly impossible to predict, there are a number of protocols in place to prevent any birth injuries associated with dystocia.