What is shoulder dystocia?

March 16, 2023 | Crandall & Pera Law
What is shoulder dystocia?

Ohio birth injuries are often traumatic for the baby and the mother. For example, shoulder dystocia is a birth injury known for causing significant distress or worse. This complication occurs when the baby’s head is out of the mother, but the baby’s shoulders are stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone.

Rare medical complication

Shoulder dystocia is one of the rarest birth injuries in the world. However, it’s also one of the most dangerous birth injuries. This situation can occur when a baby is above average in size. Shoulder dystocia can also occur if the mother has uncharacteristically narrow or oddly shaped pelvic bones.


Prolonged labor is a common symptom of shoulder dystocia. The mother might also have difficulty pushing the baby out of the birth canal. In a worst-case scenario, the baby’s head will retract into the birth canal following delivery. Not only can this deprive the baby of oxygen, but it can also cause brain damage or death.


The first option for correcting shoulder dystocia is usually repositioning the mother. If the attempt is successful, the new position will allow the baby’s shoulder to move freely. Medical professionals might also try other maneuvers to help the baby’s shoulders move. If nothing else works, the mother might need an emergency C-section to free the baby safely.

Recognizing risk factors of shoulder dystocia

Shoulder dystocia is rare and almost impossible to prevent. However, risk factors for this birth injury include previous shoulder dystocia pregnancies, pre-existing diabetes and gestational diabetes. If a mother has risk factors, close monitoring during pregnancy can prevent delivery complications. The mother’s doctor might also suggest a C-section to avoid complications.