Chiropractic and Newborns: Our Shoulder Dystocia Story

By Dr. Jessica Eliason

I gave birth to my son Ewan, this past July. It was a challenging birth, but I hesitate to label it a negative birth story because he is safe and sound, and I gained the love of my life from his birth. I went into labor at 5:30 in the morning, labored at home for a few hours before we went to the hospital, and he was born at 5:48 the next morning. I thought I would share a little about his birth and how integral chiropractic care was for him, especially in his first few days of life.

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Ewan’s birth was a slow process, and we had a complication called shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is when the infant’s head is delivered, but their shoulder is hooked on the pubic bone. It happens in around 1% of births and is an obstetric emergency, as a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain can occur if he is not delivered quickly after becoming lodged in his mother’s pelvis. Other complications arising from a shoulder dystocia birth can include damage to the baby’s brachial plexus, the dense network of nerves and blood vessels that supply the arm—this can mean partial or full paralysis of the arm, the collarbone (clavicle) can break, and, in severe cases, brain damage can occur from the lack of oxygen. Risk factors include large babies (Ewan was 9 lbs 6 oz), gestational diabetes, previous birth with shoulder dystocia, being induced, having an epidural, and obesity. Many times, it can occur even in the absence of risk factors.

Fortunately for us, Ewan did not suffer any severe complications. He had an x-ray shortly after birth that confirmed there was no break in his shoulder or collarbone. His left shoulder was obviously very sore, however, as he would wince away from his left side when maneuvered or picked up. It was difficult to watch. His head was very bruised and he was swollen. His suck reflex was weak for about a week, and we had to feed him with a syringe those first few days.

Ewan’s first adjustment!

As a chiropractor, I am so fortunate to know what I know, and Dr. Anne Langford graciously came to visit us when Ewan was just four days old to meet him, examine him, and give him his very first adjustment. I was so grateful! Can you imagine the stress on his poor neck and shoulders from that birth? Being born is hard work to begin with, so it is a good idea to have your newborn checked. Ewan had been stuck and pulled on pretty dramatically to get him into this world safely. Dr. Langford was able to identify restriction and misalignment in Ewan’s back, neck, and left shoulder, and when she adjusted his neck for the first time, I watched in amazement as his whole body melted into her hands—he completely loved it. And, best of all, his cry changed from a squealing, pain-filled wail to the more typical newborn cry. He stopped wincing away from us when we picked him up, and he ate and slept much better.

Ewan loves Dr. Langford!

Ewan still gets adjusted regularly, and needed a couple of adjustments pretty close together after that first visit to encourage his little body to function correctly. He is such a joy, and I am so grateful to Dr. Langford for helping him be more comfortable and happy so early on in his life.

Alexander Pope said it best: “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Have your newborn checked, especially if they had a difficult birth, to make sure your little twig grows into a strong tree.

Wishing you and your loved ones good health and blessings,

Dr. Jessica Eliason and Ewan


Learn more about Dr. Eliason here