Nine months these California parents have waited to meet their newest family addition face to face – nine months of preparation and expectation and hope. When painful contractions finally signal impending delivery, the parents grab the bag they have stashed for this very moment, and off they race to the hospital. Hopes and dreams are about to come true. 

Do they feel any impending danger? Most likely not. They have prepared for this day, waited for it and done everything possible to be ready when it arrived. What happens, then, when the unexpected surprises them and the delivery is not as smooth as hoped? 

One unexpected complication is birth injury, the newborn suffering unusual trauma during delivery. Birth Injury Guide explains the number of babies that encounter this challenge is small – six to eight of every 1,000 births.  

Shoulder dystocia – a rare birth injury

Unfortunately, doctors cannot always predict when complications will occur, and one that is especially difficult to anticipate is shoulder dystocia. FindLaw says it is “a rare but worrisome birth injury.” 

The March of Dimes explains further. The word dystocia itself simply means “slow or difficult labor or birth.” Shoulder dystocia is when a baby’s shoulders prevent it from leaving the birth canal. They are essentially stuck, causing distress for the little one and the mother. 

Risk factors and Resolution

Some factors that create greater risk of this particular birth injury include the following:

  • The baby is past due. 
  • The little one is unusually large.
  • Doctors induce labor.
  • The mother struggles with diabetes or obesity.

The March of Dimes explains that symptoms of injury from shoulder dystocia typically resolve within a year.