As we mentioned in a previous post, shoulder dystocia is a serious birth injury associated with the vaginal delivery of large babies. The March of Dimes states that it usually occurs when a mother’s labor is obstructed so that the baby’s shoulders become stuck on the pubic bone and the baby is unable to be fully born without immediate medical intervention. Unfortunately, the condition as well as the intervention to save the child can cause babies to sustain serious injuries, some of which may cause permanent harm.
Shoulder dystocia is incredibly dangerous mainly for two reasons: the baby’s airway may become compromised, and the pressure placed on the baby during the birthing process can be enough to severely injure the child for life. As a mother pushes to finish birthing the baby, the pressure does not release the child from the birth canal. Instead, all of that pressure compresses the chest, lungs and umbilical cord, in addition to the shoulder.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, babies are more likely to experience shoulder dystocia if they are birthed with the assistance of forceps or a vacuum extractor. Some of the most common complications these children face are nerve damage resulting in muscle weakness or an inability to move the arms, fracture of the collar bone, broken arms, oxygen deficiency leading to neurological injuries and death. Nerve damage is the most common result of the condition and occurs in as many as 15 percent of deliveries. Ten percent of those who experience nerve damage will have lasting consequences or permanent injury.