Shoulder dystocia is an emergency situation during a delivery that occurs when the baby's head has been successfully delivered, but the shoulders appear to be stuck. Since the head may be delivered fairly easily, the problem is often not discovered until this point in labor, and immediate action is then needed to deliver the rest of the body safely. The danger is that, if the baby is not delivered rapidly, he may be starved of oxygen. The doctor will need to apply firm traction on the baby's head and neck to encourage first one and then the next shoulder to be delivered. An episiotomy may need to be performed to assist the rapid delivery of the baby.
Shoulder dystocia is more likely to occur where the baby is particularly large, where the mother has a small pelvis, or in women with diabetes or who are obese. If this condition has occurred in a previous pregnancy, then an obstetrician may be necessary at the birth.