Simulator Could Make for Smoother Births

Device showed easiest way to deliver baby whose shoulders are stuck

MONDAY, Jan. 3, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Using a birth simulator, researchers at Johns Hopkins University have identified what may be the least forceful method of delivering babies whose shoulders are stuck in the birth canal.

Shoulder dystocia, which happens in about 5 percent of births, occurs when the baby's shoulders can't move past the mother's bony pelvis. Up to 25 percent of shoulder dystocia cases may result in damage to the baby's brachial plexus, the nerves that control movement and sensation in the arm. Permanent damage may occur in up to 10 percent of these babies.

The Hopkins team concluded that turning the baby so the spine faces the mother's belly requires less force than turning the baby so the spine faces the mother's spine or moving the mother's legs back to reduce the pressure of the baby's shoulders against the mother's pelvis.

The findings appear in the Jan. 4 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"Every obstetrician is likely to face this circumstance at some point in his or her career, and the longer the baby remains stuck, the higher the risk that the baby will suffocate," study author Dr. Edith D. Gurewitsch, an assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics, said in a prepared statement.

"While further studies are necessary before we can make definitive recommendations on the use of one procedure over another, our initial lab results demonstrate that we can measure what is happening to the baby during birth, and that we can alter our techniques to create a safe environment for delivery," she said.

She and her colleagues performed 30 mock deliveries using a birth simulator that simulated shoulder dystocia. The simulator included a "mother" with a bony pelvis, a baby model, force-sensing gloves, and a data-collecting computer system.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about childbirth.

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, December 2004
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