Pregnancy Comes In All Shapes And Sizes

A Guest Post with Emma from Our FairyTale Adventure

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder Dystocia: This is when the baby’s head has been born but one of his/her shoulders have become stuck behind the mothers pubic bone. It happens in about 1:150 births. It is an obstetric emergency as failure to act promptly and appropriately can have severe consequences.

On detection of a shoulder dystocia it is recognised as an emergency situation. Assistance will be called for and various attempts will be made to dislodge the shoulder and facilitate birth. In nearly all cases the manoeuvres are successful and the baby is born healthy. However, due to it being an emergency situation it can be frightening, you are more likely to suffer damage to your perineum and the baby can also suffer nerve damage. All midwives and doctors are trained and regularly updated on dealing with this situation. For more information see the link at the bottom. For anyone who has suffered a shoulder dystocia I urge to ask for debriefing. This is a way of discussing what happened, possible reasons and what to consider, if anything for future pregnancies.

Thank you to Emma for sharing more details of her pregnancy with us. She recently shared her struggles with Cholestasis in Pregnancy too.

Please tell us a little about your family.

I’m Emma and I write the parenting and lifestyle blog ‘Our Fairytale Adventure’, which is about life with my partner Mr. C and our two boys Bear and Monkey. There is only 17 months between them, so life can get a bit hectic sometimes.

How was your pregnancy? Pretty straightforward or did you have any complications?

I had quite a difficult pregnancy with Monkey, as I said in my last post my pregnancy and labour with his older brother was difficult and left me with a lot of muscle damage. I had a lot of pain in my hips from about 15 / 16 weeks and could barely walk by 20 weeks. I found it difficult moving at all later in pregnancy and spent a lot of time in bed from around 36 weeks. I then developed cholestasis at 37 weeks, so the pregnancy wasn’t exactly straight forward.

How did your labour start?

I was induced at 38 weeks because of the cholestasis, I was more prepared this time around and had been practising meditation regularly to keep me calm. Once we were in the birthing room I asked the midwife to dim the lights and set about creating a very calm atmosphere with battery powered candles and made sure I took a book.

Was your labour straightforward? Fast? Slow?

To be honest it was amazing up until Monkey got stuck. The midwives I had with me were incredible, they made sure I had the atmosphere I wanted and made a point of getting me a wireless machine so I could potter about and made the whole experience enjoyable. The contractions were building up and all of sudden I had a really sharp pain, that was similar to what I had experienced when I was induced with my eldest. I thought ‘I’m not having these for nearly 24 hours again’ and asked for epidural. The midwife wanted to check me first as the pain had come on suddenly and realised the labour had suddenly progressed very quickly when she saw Monkey’s head.

At what point did you know that something was wrong? Did the midwives / doctors communicate the emergency with you or your partner?

I have a brief recollection of my midwife explaining the room was about to get busy, but I was so focused on pushing I wasn’t too aware that the room suddenly filled with people. The medical team just did their job, one midwife kept telling me push and was incredibly supportive, but neither myself or Mr. C knew quite how serious the situation was. To be honest if someone had explained the severity of the situation while I was in labour it would have made me panic, so I’m glad I was left in the dark during the labour. Nobody really explained it afterwards either though, we only really learned about how serious a shoulder dystocia can be from having a look online and speaking to a friend’s girlfriend who is a midwife. It would have been nice for someone to sit down with us and explain what had happened properly.

How did your partner cope with and feel about the situation?

He handled it really well actually, he just kept giving me water in between contractions and kept telling me I was doing really well. He wasn’t really aware of how serious the situation was though, I’m not sure if he would have been so calm had he known.

How was your baby once he was born?

I didn’t hear him cry, which is when I started panicking. I started getting really distressed, then kept asking where he was and why I couldn’t hear him. It took a couple of minutes for a midwife to calm me down enough for her to explain that he was fine, but a bit stunned. Once he was handed to me, he fed really well and was absolutely fine.

Did you suffer any physical and/or mental trauma as a result of the experience?

After the body shock of labour, I actually felt physically better than I had done for months. I did end up with quite a lot of muscle damage though, but I think that was a combined effort from the two difficult pregnancies and two difficult labours. The experience of the shoulder dystocia didn’t really take its toll mentally for a few weeks. I don’t think it had really sunk in to be honest. Once it did though I tried not to mention it to anyone, because it made me teary thinking ‘what if’. Even now 18 months later, thinking about it makes me anxious and upset. I don’t think I’ve dealt with it properly yet if I’m being completely honest.

At any point after the event, did any medical professional sit and talk with you about events?

No not really. We was told what had happened, but I didn’t really know what that meant and nobody seemed to want to sit with us and explain it. I understand the maternity wards are incredibly busy and the NHS is incredibly stretched, so I understand why a dr or midwife didn’t have time, but it may have been nice for a Health Visitor or a community midwife to have taken the time to explain it.

Have these events impacted on you having any more children?

We initially wanted three children close together but I think the experiences from both of my pregnancies and labours have changed that idea. We would still like three, but we aren’t even going to discuss anymore children for a few years yet.

How are you and your family now?

We are all very well, it’s been amazing watching the brotherly bond grow between the two boys. They are thick as thieves now and definitely keep me very busy. I think the experiences I had in terms of pregnancy and labour has definitely altered how I view life and has given me even more of a drive to show the boys as much of the world as I can, give them as many experiences and make as many memories as I possibly can with them and just generally cherish every moment that little bit more.


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For further advice on Shoulder Dystocia

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – PI on Shoulder Dystocia


  1. Wow I hadn’t ever really realised that the shoulders getting stuck was so serious (or had a proper medical term). It’s frightening just how many things can go wrong during labour – I’m so glad your story had a happy ending.

    Thanks so much for sharing with #coolmumclub

  2. I don’t think i would have wanted to know during the labour either, I think it would have made me panic and lose sight of what I was supposed to be doing. It sounds like you did amazingly well under the circumstances! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

  3. I’m glad it was all ok in the end and I hope it doesn’t put you off having another if you want one. I hink I would rather not know if there was a major problem, labour is tricky enough even when you’ve been through it before! :)#blogstravaganza


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