Shoulder dystocia

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  • Occurs in 0.2-3% of all births[1]
  • Anterior shoulder becomes impacted in pubic symphysis

Risk Factors

  • Pre-labor
    • Previous shoulder dystocia
    • Macrosomia
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Maternal BMI > 30
    • Induction of labor
  • Intrapartum
    • Prolonged first or second stage
    • Oxytocin augmentation
    • Assisted vaginal delivery
      • Prolonged head to body delivery time >60 seconds

Clinical Features

  • Routine practice of gentle, downward traction of the fetal head fails to accomplish delivery of the anterior shoulder or additional obstetric maneuvers are required for delivery of anterior shoulder.
  • "Turtle sign" - fetal head retracts against perineum after it appears (rare)

Differential Diagnosis

Emergent delivery and related complications


  • Clinical diagnosis


No consensus on best treatment/maneuver or order of their application.

HELPERR mnemonic - all maneuvers able to be performed by Emergency Physician, generally from least to most invasive

  • H call for help
  • E Evaluate for possible Episiotomy (or episioproctotomy) to increase the anteroposterior diameter of passage
  • L Legs flex (McRoberts maneuver) - best first option - hyperflexion of legs with mild abduction and external rotation (successful in 40% of cases)[1]
  • P Pressure (suprapubic pressure, aka Rubin I maneuver) - apply pressure just proximal to pubic symphysis, either continuously or in rocking motion (in conjunction with McRoberts, increases success rate to 54%)[1]
  • E Entry maneuvers - Wood’s corkscrew maneuver by applying pressure to anterior aspect of posterior shoulder causing movement of shoulder into more oblique position in pelvis[2] or Rubin II maneuver - applying pressure to posterior aspect of most accessible shoulder (anterior or posterior)
  • R Remove posterior arm by sweeping it across the chest and bring fetal hand to the chin, grasp and pull out of the birth canal and across the face (effective in up to 84% of cases)[1]
  • R Roll on all fours (Gaskin position) - may relieve up to 83% of shoulder dystocia[1]


  • Transient brachial plexus palsy (3.0 to 16.8%)
  • Clavicular fracture (1.7 to 9.5%)
  • Humerus fracture (0.1 to 4.2%)
  • Permanent brachial plexus palsy (0.5 to 1.6%)
  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (0.3%)
  • Death (0 to 0.35%)

See Also

External Links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Silver DW, Sabatino F. Precipitous and difficult deliveries. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2012 Nov;30(4):961-75. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2012.08.004.
  2. Mercado J, Brea I, Mendez B, et al. Critical obstetric and gynecologic procedures in the emergency department. Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2013 Feb;31(1):207-36.