Shoulder dystocia is a specific case of obstructed labour whereby after the delivery of the head, the anterior shoulder of the infant cannot pass below, or requires significant manipulation to pass below, the pubic symphysis. It is diagnosed when the shoulders fail to deliver shortly after the fetal head.
Shoulder dystocia is an obstetric emergency, and fetal demise can occur if the infant is not delivered, due to compression of the umbilical cord within the birth canal. It occurs in approximately 0.3-1% of vaginal births.
Contemporary management of shoulder dystocia requires a calm operator and a well-thought-out plan of action. It is imperative that if not already present, help is summoned immediately after shoulder dystocia is recognized.
This help may include additional nursing staff, an anesthesiologist, a pediatrician or neonatologist and an additional obstetrician or midwife. Future coordination may demonstrate that rapid response teams are best suited to attend to this emergency.