Complications associated with shoulder dystocia

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Birth Injuries, Blog

Shoulder dystocia is a childbirth complication that occurs when a baby’s shoulder lodges behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery. This obstetric emergency can lead to a range of complications for both the mother and the baby.

Understanding the potential complications associated with shoulder dystocia helps health care providers and expectant parents recognize and address this issue promptly.

Injury to the baby

A complication of shoulder dystocia is the risk of injury to the baby during delivery. The prolonged pressure on the baby’s shoulder and brachial plexus nerves can lead to nerve damage. This may cause Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s paralysis. These injuries can cause weakness or paralysis in the affected arm. In severe cases, shoulder dystocia can also lead to fractures or other birth injuries, requiring immediate medical intervention and long-term treatment.

Maternal trauma

Shoulder dystocia can also pose risks of maternal trauma during childbirth. The excessive force required to dislodge the baby’s shoulder can lead to tears or lacerations. Severe maternal trauma can result in pain, bleeding and complications such as postpartum hemorrhage or infection. Some such complications can require surgical repair and prolonged recovery time. Shoulder dystocia may necessitate emergency interventions such as vacuum extraction or cesarean delivery to reduce maternal risks.

Emotional impacts

In addition to the physical complications, shoulder dystocia can also have an emotional impact. For mothers, experiencing complications during childbirth can lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt or trauma. This can affect their emotional well-being and ability to bond with the newborn.

The Cleveland Clinic notes that mothers who have babies with shoulder dystocia face an increased risk of future babies experiencing the same thing. Health care providers and expectant parents can work together to reduce risks by raising awareness about potential complications.


FindLaw Network