Dystocia is a term used to describe the difficult delivery of a baby. In shoulder dystocia, the baby's head can be delivered, but the shoulders cannot pass through the birth canal. The shoulders are too wide to fit and become lodged behind the mother's pubic bone or the opening of the birth canal.

Typically, babies born with shoulder dystocia do not suffer long-term complications. If complications do occur, they are usually because the baby has become stuck too long in the birth canal.

Complications include:

  • For the baby:
    • Lack of oxygen
    • Broken arm or collarbone
    • Arm nerve damage
    • Paralysis
  • For the mother:
    • Tearing or bruising of the cervix, rectum, or vagina
    • Bruising to the bladder
    • Hemorrhaging

Shoulder Dystocia
Shoulder Dystocia
The baby's shoulder is lodged behind the mother's pubic bone.
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There are a variety of reasons why a baby's shoulders may become lodged during delivery. The most common reasons include:

  • Delivering very large babies with unusually high birth weights
    • Often caused by diabetes or mothers who are very overweight
  • Mother's pelvic opening being too small to allow the baby's shoulders to fit

Narrow Pelvic Opening
Pelvis birth
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