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What is "shoulder dystocia" and its complications?

Parents in Pittsburgh who are expecting a baby will undoubtedly be excited as they prepare for the birth. The last thing they want to think about is the possibility that something might go wrong and birth injuries could occur. However, it is an unfortunate reality that there are sometimes issues with a newborn baby. These problems can be of the short or long-term variety. Regardless, there can be pain, medical expenses and other issues that accompany a problematic birth. "Shoulder dystocia" is one birth injury that parents should be aware of.

When a baby is being delivered and the shoulders get stuck in the mother, it can lead to shoulder dystocia. This is a danger for the mother and the baby. There are certain factors before birth that doctors and other medical professionals should be able to recognize and take steps to mitigate. If it is a large baby - also referred to as "macrosomia" - the doctor might advise that there be a cesarean section. Other factors that could lead to shoulder dystocia include the mother being diabetic, multiple births, obesity, birth after the due date, induced labor, an epidural being given to ease the pain or an operative vaginal birth in which the doctor uses medical tools to help with the birth. There can also be shoulder dystocia even if the mother does not have known risk factors.

Shoulder dystocia often does not cause permanent damage to the mother or baby, but there are certain common complications. There could be nerve injuries to the shoulder, arms and hands that could lead to paralysis or shaking. This often subsides within the first year. But, a lack of oxygen to the baby's brain might lead to brain damage and death. The mother might bleed heavily or there could be tearing.

While shoulder dystocia might not be a long-term problem in most cases, it can still lead to medical costs, the need for extra care and other problems. In a worst-case scenario, it can lead to severe damage and even death to the mother or the baby. When shoulder dystocia happens, it is important to have a full investigation of the circumstances to determine if the medical staff could have and should have done something to prevent the birth injury.

Source: marchofdimes.org, "Shoulder dystocia," accessed on Aug. 8, 2017

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