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Shoulder dystocia

Published: 28/03/2013

Shoulder dystocia is when the baby’s head has been born but one of the shoulders becomes stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone, delaying the birth of the baby’s body. If this happens, extra help is usually needed to release the baby’s shoulder. In the majority of cases, the baby will be born promptly and safely.

This information is for you if you wish to know about shoulder dystocia. You may also find it helpful if the birth of your baby was complicated by shoulder dystocia. It covers:

  • What shoulder dystocia is, and how commonly it occurs
  • Whether shoulder dystocia can be predicted or prevented
  • What happens if shoulder dystocia occurs
  • What happens if you give birth at home or in a midwife-led unit
  • What happens if you’ve chosen to have a water birth
  • What shoulder dystocia could mean for you and your baby
  • Implications for future deliveries

This information is based on the RCOG guideline Shoulder Dystocia.

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