Doctors say that with more babies born oversized mostly to obese or overweight mothers the risks of shoulder injury and getting stuck during labour is on the rise. Horrifyingly sometimes obstetricians are resorting to breaking baby’s collarbones to facilitate delivery because their shoulders get stuck during childbirth. This is usually done in a potentially life-threatening is known as shoulder dystocia that compresses the umbilical cord or puts pressure on the neck, leaving the child starved of oxygen if not delivered immediately.
Brisbane-based obstetrician Dino Pecoraro said, “Because mothers are getting older and more overweight, we certainly are seeing babies getting heavier.” He said that shoulder dystocia is more likely to occur if the mother develops gestational diabetes and added, “When shoulder dystocia happens, it is considered an obstetric emergency.” The obstetrician has only three or four minutes to get the baby out safely in these cases he said. “If (other methods) don’t work and time is moving on, one of the things you can do is break the collarbones, but that’s the extreme case… It can happen with no warning, and that’s why we need to train doctors to deal with any obstetric emergency as it comes.”
Dr Louise Farrell, vice-president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said doctors often could not tell how big a baby was. “An ultrasound always carries a 10 to 20 per cent error rate, but in obese women it is even harder to get an accurate weight,” she said.
Shoulder dystocia takes place in around one in 100 babies born weighing around the 2.5kg mark It can affect one in 10 babies weighing more than 4kg and nearly one in four weighing more than 4.5kg suffer. Of the 66,097 babies born in Queensland last year, 12 per cent weighed more than 4kg and it is estimated about 960 suffered shoulder dystocia at birth.