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By Spencers Solicitors

  Karen Cawood    
  December 2, 2019

Infant Shoulder Dystocia

What is Infant Shoulder Dystocia?

Shoulder dystocia is a complication that occurs during deliver when an infant’s shoulders become lodged in the mother’s pelvic, quite often because the baby is too big for the birth canal (cephalopelvic disorder, known as CPD).

Sometimes this can also be caused by the baby being born face first (sometimes called turtle syndrome), pulled out by the face which causes undue stress on the neck, or when the baby is born feet first (this can also create undue stress on the shoulder and neck area).

Shoulder Dystocia is potentially life threatening. One of the baby’s shoulders is obstructed by the mother’s pubic symphysis.

What are the Symptoms and Risks of Infant Shoulder Dystocia?

The baby’s shoulders become stuck in the mother’s pelvis area after the head had has already been delivered. When the Physician attempts to pull the rest of the baby out, the physician may cause injuries such as brachial plexus palsy, broken bones and sometimes facial injuries. Depending on if any injuries occur after shoulder dystocia, the symptoms may include:-

  • Nerve damage and pain
  • A claw-like hand appearance
  • Light paralysis of the affected limb
  • Potential brain damage if the baby is starved of oxygen

The mother giving birth is also at risk of complications if shoulder dystocia occurs such as haemorrhaging, uterine rupture and lacerations.

Brachial Plexus Palsy

This occurs when there is damage to the brachial plexus nerves, and includes injuries such as Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy. These conditions typically happen after shoulder damage, usually when the nerve damage is so severe that nerves have been torn, moved or completely detached.

Risk factors for Shoulder Dystocia during pregnancy

There are a number of factors associated with Shoulder Dystocia:-

  • Maternal diabetes
  • Foetal macrosomia
  • A late labour and delivery
  • Prior instances of shoulder dystocia during delivery
  • Induced labour
  • Epidural use
  • Maternal obesity
  • Pregnant with more than one baby

How is Shoulder Dystocia managed?

Shoulder Dystocia in most cases is a preventable condition during child birth. The Physician who monitors foetal distress can order an emergency caesarean before any injuries happen.

Infants with a higher birth weight and diagnosed with cephalopelvic disorder should be candidates for caesarean section but this is at the discretion of the physician responsible for delivery the baby.

There are conservative ways of positioning the mother during the birth process to attempt to attempt to un-trap if the risks of caesarean section are considered too high. Sometimes the Physician will attempt internal rotation of the baby, McRoberts manoeuvre or Zavanelli manoeuvre.

Treatment for Infant Shoulder Dystocia

Even if Shoulder Dystocia occurs, sometimes the baby is still delivered without harming the brachial plexus nerves or damaging any other part of the body. Brachial plexus injuries may require physiotherapy, massage or in extreme cases surgery.

Spencers Solicitors have extensive experience of acting for the victims of medical negligence in relation to Shoulder Dystocia and other types or birth injuries. We have helped many to make successful compensation claims. If you or a family member has suffered from complications as a result of Shoulder Dystocia call Spencers on 08000 93 00 94 for a no obligation chat with one of our birth injury Solicitors.


About the Author

Karen is a Solicitor within our Serious Injury Team. Karen, joined the business in 2018 and qualified as a Solicitor in 2008.

Karen specialises in Clinical negligence work representing Claimants. Karen has extensive experience of dealing with a wide variety of complex and serious injury claims including serious orthopaedic injuries, psychological injuries, catastrophic claims and fatalities.


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