The Truth About Shoulder Dystocia

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

How often do babies shoulders get stuck on the way out?

If I have had one baby with shoulder dystocia, will all my babies get "stuck"?

What evidence is there about shoulder dystocia?

Along the lines of the "big baby" fear is the worry that a baby's shoulders will get stuck on the way out. This often leads to scheduled/repeat Cesareans. But, is that evidence based? What do studies show? Here are five things we found at that will help clarify the facts.

Five Facts on Shoulder Dystocia

  1. Despite the use of ultrasound to attempt to estimate fetal weights, there is currently no way for obstetricians to determine with any degree of accuracy which babies will be macrosomic or will experience shoulder dystocia at delivery. New work on shoulder dystocia prediction algorithms may change this existing limitation in obstetric practice.

  2. The various strategies proposed to attempt to reduce the number of shoulder dystocia deliveries and brachial plexus (the group of nerves around the shoulder) injuries would result in the performance of hundreds or thousands of Cesarean sections to prevent a single case of permanent brachial plexus injury, the potential medical complications from such interventions, and high economic costs of such interventions.

  3. Although there are various techniques for resolving shoulder dystocia, these will not totally eliminate the incidence of brachial plexus palsies (injuries to the nerves in the shoulders causing weakness or loss of movement) and other birth injuries.

  4. Brachial plexus injuries may be caused by multiple factors related to the physiology of labor and delivery.

  5. No published clinical or experimental data exists to support the contention that the presence of persistent neonatal brachial plexus palsy could only be caused by the application of excessive force by the birth attendant.

In other words... There is no evidence to support that suspicion of a big baby or of shoulder dystocia is an indication for Cesarean delivery or that there is a major risk of injury to the baby. For more detailed information and the studies used to get to these conclusions, follow the link above.

Check out episode 8 of our podcast for the story of a VBAC Mom who birthed a ten pound baby and more shoulder dystocia information.

Want exclusive access to the exact affirmations Meagan and Julie used to achieve their successful VBACs? Download your FREE printable affirmations here.

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