You may have heard a pregnant woman say that she is determined to deliver her baby naturally “if she can.” Many women are more afraid of an emergency surgery than of a natural delivery, and would rather give birth vaginally if it is at all possible.
But even if a mother is able to handle the pain of delivering an extremely large infant, it may be physically impossible for her to do so—and even attempting it may lead to a serious birth injury.
Higher Risk of Shoulder Dystocia
One of the biggest complications of small mothers delivering large babies is shoulder dystocia, a condition caused by nerve damage in the brachial plexus. Women may be particularly at risk of shoulder dystocia due to:
- Smaller maternal pelvis – The birth canal is not a straight line. It has several jutting bones that the baby must twist and turn through in order to be successfully delivered.
- Larger infant heads – Unborn children develop with shifting plates in their skulls in order to navigate the birth canal. While molding of the skull can help reduce the diameter of the newborn’s head, there is a limit to how compressed the baby’s head can get.
- Longer infant bodies – Larger babies are more likely to have disproportionate bodies. Normal-sized infants have a larger head than body, while a larger baby’s shoulders may be wider than its head—making them more likely to be caught on the pelvic bone.
Although many smaller mothers have delivered big babies naturally, the method of delivery should be based on what is best for both mother and child. If someone you know is struggling after a hospital delivery, send them a link to this page or download our free guide, Family First: How to Get the Help You Need After a Birth Injury to Your Child Happens in Kentucky.