For pregnant women, the risk of one dangerous birth complication, referred to as shoulder dystocia, has decreased significantly recently. The likelihood of the complication arising may now be predicted with a test used to determine risk factors prior to delivery. A common risk factor for shoulder dystocia is severe weight gain during the pregnancy.
The test, referred to as a “shoulder screen,” involves four steps and may be completed during the third trimester.
Shoulder dystocia is a relatively common birth injury, occurring in around one out of every 100 vaginal births. The complication occurs during delivery when the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged under the mother’s pubic bone. When this happens, it is difficult for the baby to exit the birth canal, often requiring special techniques to deliver the child. These extra measures to birth the child can lead to the baby suffering a brachial plexus injury. Sadly, such injuries can have long-lasting effects for the child, often leading to weakness or paralysis of the arm that can last throughout the child’s life. Brachial plexus injuries occur in around one out of every 1,000 vaginal births.
The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology recently published a study that showed the rates of shoulder dystocia dropped more than 50 percent over a period of four years for those who used the test.
One concern in developing the test was preventing a corresponding increase in the number of cesarean births while allowing for a decrease in the number of cases of shoulder dystocia. The same study showed no increase in the rate of cesarean sections among those using the shoulder screen.
Source: Health News Digest, “Consumer Safety Campaign to Raise Awareness of Dangerous Birth Complication,” June 20, 2012.