The Atlantic

The Doctor Who Revolutionized Hospital-Birth Safety

In a field that has been dangerously slow to adopt standardized care practices, one influential obstetrician has pushed things forward with common sense.
Source: Jorge Lopez / Reuters

The newborn’s head arrived first. A shoulder should have followed, but it was lodged securely behind the mother’s pubic bone. The baby’s head made the “turtle sign” as it delivered, rocking back as if to retreat into his mother’s vagina.

“Shoulder dystocia!” the obstetrician called out.

The obstetric team at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center jumped into action. Within seconds, additional nurses were in the room; in less than a minute, other physicians were standing by, too. Two nurses flexed the mother’s legs gently backward. Simultaneously, another nurse positioned a stool next to the labor bed, preparing to push the baby’s shoulder to the side to dislodge it.

“Two minutes,” one of the nurses called out, a reminder of how long the team had been at work. Brain injury, due to a lack of oxygen, can occur after approximately five.

Twenty seconds later, it was over. The baby slipped out

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