Labor and delivery has its ups and downs. While moms can’t wait for the moment where they will meet their little one, they also are anxious for the pain and unpredictability of the entire childbirth process. Even women who have had children before never know what to expect during their delivery, as each one can go differently. And unfortunately, things could go badly.
Many women have questions about what their body will go through during those fateful hours of childbirth. They hear stories from their mothers and grandmothers, family and friends, but so much seems exaggerated that sometimes they don’t know what to believe. We have answers to the questions that keep moms-to-be up at night, and this time we are tackling a biggie: can the baby get stuck?
The short answer is yes. It happens every day and for a number of reasons. There are a number of factors that could cause the complication and several possible actions that a mom or doctor could take to get the baby unstuck and delivered. There are risks involved in all of them, so we have information on all of the possibilities to help a mom-to-be prepare for every situation.
Here are 16 things that can happen if the baby gets stuck.
As Shakira taught us, the hips don’t lie. But sometimes they tease us to think that we are able to successfully give birth to a baby. While the size of women’s hips has been growing these days, the truth is that the pelvis beneath them has been getting smaller. That is something that a scientific study determined, and it could get worse due to evolution — and the ability for women to give birth via C-section.
The incidence of babies getting stuck has been on the rise as the size of babies get bigger while pelvises get smaller. The phenomenon is called cephalopelvic disproportion. Even though the newborn’s skull is made to get smaller in order to get through the pelvis and out of the birth canal, there is only so small the head can get and so large that the pelvis can stretch (pelvises don’t exactly stretch, but the ligaments loosen during pregnancy to allow for a bigger opening).
About 1 in 250 pregnancies end in cephalopelvic disproportion, and many women who get the diagnosis are still able to give birth vaginally. There are a lot of factors that determine exactly how stuck the baby gets, and the pelvis size is just one of them.
15Pain In The Rib
There are times long before the baby is born when moms wonder if the baby is already stuck. It’s when they have a terrible pain in the rib and they think the baby will never — and therefore, can’t — move out of their rib cage. We couldn’t find a case when a baby actually did get stuck in the mom’s ribs, but we totally understand the pain, and we checked out how to get some relief.
According to Healthline, moms whose baby is so high that it feels like it is stuck in her ribs should consider using an exercise ball and do a few roll-outs to try to get a shift. A visit to the chiropractor could cause the baby to drop lower and take some pressure off the ribs. If the pain is severe, moms should talk to the doctor because it could be a symptom of something a lot worse than the baby getting stuck.
On the flip side, after the baby drops, some women feel like the baby is stuck in the pelvis long before the contractions begin. On the one hand, it’s good that the baby engages but on the other, it’s painful to get around or even sit. The baby is stuck in that position until labor begins, so moms have to figure out how to make themselves comfortable.
Some tips from Spinning Babies include wearing a pregnancy belt and sitting on an exercise ball. There are other exercises that can help to release the sacral bones, although they might be best to do under the care of a doctor or a physical therapist. And chiropractors may be able to provide some relief as well. The good news is that usually the period of being stuck in the pelvic area is short-lived. Within a few weeks, the pressure on the pelvis will help labor to begin, and the baby will be born.
Sometimes the baby is stuck because there is no way to get out of the uterus. That’s because something is blocking the entrance. We’ll talk about a few examples of that here. First of all, there could be fibroids in the uterus that are growing right along with the baby, competing for space and often blocking the way out.
Fibroids aren’t cancerous, but they are growths that happen in the uterus, many times before the pregnancy even begins. The growths usually don’t cause any issues during the pregnancy, although some women experience abdominal pain and the incidence of miscarriage and premature delivery are slightly increased compared to other pregnancies. The biggest issue is with the actually birth. That’s when the fibroids can get in the way, especially if they are near the cervix. They may mean a C-section is the answer to how to get the baby out because the fibroids mean he is stuck.
There is another thing that can block the baby from getting out of the uterus. That is the placenta, the large disc-like organ that provides the baby with the blood and oxygen and nutrients that he needs to grow and thrive. The placenta attaches to the wall of the uterus and transfers the nutrients from the mom to the baby via the umbilical cord. But sometimes the place that it attaches can cover the cervix, which is the only natural way for the bbaby to get out. So if it is covered, the baby is stuck.
Usually, doctors discover placenta previa early on in a pregnancy, and they will keep an eye on the issue throughout. For most moms with the condition, the placenta corrects itself and moves into another position, but for some, it stays in the way. When contractions begin, there is a possibility that the placenta could detach early, and that could mean that the baby doesn’t get oxygen during the delivery. It’s much safer for many to have a C-section and for the baby to come out through another opening that is made by the doctor, so that the baby isn’t stuck anymore.
After a long labor and hours — or even days — of pain and contractions, all women can't wait for the moment that the baby crowns. That's what it is called when the top of the head is visible in the birth canal, and many expect that moment to be a sign that the baby is finally on the cusp of being born. They think that they will see the baby in full in just moments, but that is not always the case. In fact, that is when some women worry that the baby has gotten stuck.
Just because the baby's head is visible doesn't mean that he has fully crowned. Very often the mom reaches 10 centimeters and begins to push only to find that once the baby has crowned, the head will slip back into birth canal when the contraction ebbs and the mother lets up on her push. It can take hours of pushing before the baby actually stays in the crowned position. The baby not be actually stuck, but it could be a sign that labor isn't progressing well and the doctor may have to rethink what to do to get him out.
While a baby can get stuck no matter what the position is for the birth, one of the most dangerous ways to give birth is if the baby is breech. That's when the foot or the bottom is going to come out first instead of the head. Getting the baby's hips out first is much harder than the head — which is made of separate bones during the newborn stage to allow them to change shape.
And if the mother does successfully deliver the baby's bottom end, she's still got to worry about getting the head out. Unfortunately, it can get stuck, especially if the chin is pointing in the wrong direction. It's much easier to direct the head when it comes out first than if it is following the body, and there can be times when the baby could get stuck with the body already delivered. In that case, there could be some severe damage to the vagina in trying to get the baby unstuck. It's possible that the baby could suffer as well. That's why many doctors encourage mothers whose babies are breech to have a C-section. It's safer than risking that the baby get stuck.
To avoid having a breech baby, the best thing that a mom can do is plan ahead. Usually, a doctor or midwife will monitor the baby to see if she has turned to the head down position. That usually happens between the 30 week and 34 week mark — earlier than that and the baby could flip back, while after that there is little room for the baby to maneuver and get in the right position.
About 25 percent of babies haven’t turned by this time, but that doesn’t mean that they are headed toward breech deliveries or C-sections. There are some practices that women try to get the baby to flip. Those include pelvic tilts, visiting a chiropractor, walking and even trying music or candles to get the baby to move his head down below.
Sometimes there is little a mom can do to stop the baby from being breech. There may not be enough amniotic fluid or the baby could be large or a fibroid is in the way. The baby could be stuck that way, and the only thing to do is to get the baby out, either through a difficult vaginal birth or a C-section.
There’s another reason that the baby can get stuck either in the breech position or in the birth canal, and that is because of the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is an amazing organ that connects the baby to the mother to pass along oxygen, blood and other nutrients. But the thing can be as much as two feet long.
On ultrasounds, doctors have observed babies in the womb playing with their umbilical cords. And at the beginning, the baby has a lot of room to move around. That means that many babies get tangled up in those big long cords. Sometimes that can restrict movement, and sometimes that means that the baby gets stuck. If the cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck, then the doctor may intentionally stop the birth long enough to unwrap it. It’s a big, scary complication that could endanger the life of the baby.
Getting the head out isn't the only hurdle that a mom has to go through in the pushing stage of childbirth. Very often, the head can get out, but the shoulders are even wider and harder to handle. During that portion of the delivery, the baby should rotate from facing the opposite way as his mom to twisting so that the shoulders line up sideways so they have more room to make it through.
The bigger the baby, though, the harder that it is to get the shoulders out, and sometimes the baby will get stuck. It's a situation called shoulder dystocia, and sometimes it requires the doctors to really pull to help the baby make his way completely through. There is a big danger that the shoulder will get tugged and nerves could be pinched. With shoulder dystocia, the baby could get stuck to the point where the shoulder is damaged. The baby could actually end up losing the use of the limb.
We’ve already talked about how the baby can be upside down, but many moms don’t know that the baby could also be backwards. And that is also a risk for the baby to get stuck. Typically, if the mom is lying on her back, the baby should be facing the ground — or if the mom is facing the ground, the baby should be looking at the sky. That’s the easiest way for the baby’s head to come out.
But sometimes the baby is in a position called occiput posterior, where he is facing the same way as the mom. That is the position that causes back labor, and it can cause the baby to get stuck as well. That’s because it’s harder for the head to fit through the pelvis that way. The good news is that just because you have back labor doesn’t mean that you will have an occiput posterior birth. Sometimes the baby can spin into the preferred position during labor, especially if the mom chooses to let gravity help during the labor.
There’s one more possibility for weird positions that could result in problems for the baby getting stuck, and that is called a facial presentation. That’s when the baby is head down, but instead of the hair being the first thing that anyone sees when the baby crowns, the face will actually be the first part that comes out. That means that the part of the head that is most suited for birth is not aimed in the right direction, and the baby can get stuck in the pelvis. It’s hard to deliver the baby through the birth canal that way, and it’s very dangerous to use vacuum extraction or forceps in a facial presentation.
There are some women who have safe deliveries of facial presentations, but it can mean a longer and harder pushing phase. If the baby starts to get into distress, it may be necessary to get him out quickly, and that may mean that a C-section is the faster, safer option.
We’ve talked a lot about different ways that the baby can get stuck, but — thank goodness — there are some ways that the baby can get unstuck. Many are determined by the doctor, but there is one thing that women can do that could help them get the baby in the right position to get out. Epidurals can slow labor down, and so can lying on your back. It can mean that the baby doesn’t have gravity working to get baby out, and that may exacerbate the possibility of being stuck.
Moving into a different position can make a big difference. Sometimes, it can help a breech baby flip. It can also open up the pelvis, which can be especially important if the baby is big. The best movements for that are walking, swaying or getting on hands and knees. Switching position may be enough to get the baby to move just enough to get him unstuck and toward the path for a safe delivery.
As we’ve mentioned, there could be some ways that the doctor could help when the baby gets stuck. While doctors and midwives often let moms try to continue to push for a while, if they know the baby is stuck, it could be pointless to keep pushing. It’ll only zap the mother’s energy and it could cause more trauma to the mom and baby than is necessary. To get the baby out, it might be necessary to use some tools. There are two of those that we would like to mention.
The first is called a vacuum extraction. With that, the doctor puts a suction cup in the birth canal and attaches it to the top of the baby’s head. With the next contraction, while the mom is pushing, the doctor can pull, and that can help get the baby through. It can also be used during a breech delivery. There are risks that the baby could get scraped and bruised, but if it works, the baby can get dislodged and delivered before something worse happens.
The second tool that can be used for delivery is more well-known, although the practice is becoming less common. The doctor uses a medical device known as forceps, which look similar to salad tongs but with long blades on the end. Those blades are put on each side of the baby’s head, and just like a vacuum extraction, the doctor will use them to pull the baby out while the mom is pushing.
There are similar risks involved in a forceps delivery as with a vacuum extraction. The mother could go through some trauma to her vagina, and an episiotomy may happen to make more room. It’s also possible that the urethra or bladder could be damaged, making the mom suffer from even worse incontinence issues. Unfortunately, there is a chance that the baby could be injured. Many babies end up with a “forceps mark,” which is just a slight indention that matches the tongs or blades on the baby’s face. But sometimes the forceps can hurt a vital organ, such as the eye. It’s a big risk in an already dangerous situation, but it can work to get the baby out after he gets stuck.
1Stuck In A C-section
For many of these scenarios, women will worry that they will end up in a C-section. But the truth is that is not the worst case scenario. As we’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of dangerous complications that can come when the baby gets stuck, including injuries to the mother and the baby or even brain damage or death. That’s why many women end up in emergency C-sections. Unfortunately, it’s possible that the baby can get stuck even in the operating room.
That’s especially true of the baby has already made the descent into the pelvis. The doctor may have to manually push the baby out, and that can take time and stress everyone. The scenarios can be just as tragic. Fortunately, that is rarely the case. Most of the time, doctors and nurses can help save babies that are stuck in time for a safe and healthy delivery.
Sources: Healthline, Spinning Babies, Parents, FitPregnancy
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