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Understanding the Risks of Forceps and Vacuum Extraction in Childbirth

Written by Ankin Law Office

Childbirth is an anxiety-producing time regardless of how smoothly the labor and delivery goes, but parents can be even more worried if there are childbirth complications that require medical intervention is needed.  There are two main techniques that medical professionals use to assist with the final stages of a vaginal delivery: (1) forceps and (2) vacuum extraction.  Both techniques involve gently pulling the newborn through the birth canal.  Because a baby’s skill is extremely soft and the skull bones have not yet fused together completely, babies are susceptible to bruising and disfigurement if forceps or vacuum extraction are used incorrectly.

What Are Forceps?

Forceps are a pair of curved metal tongs that grasp the baby’s head on each side and allow the doctor to gently pull the baby through the birth canal.  The most common injuries include bruising and abrasions, but fortunately, the bruises and abrasions usually fade over the first few days and weeks of the newborn’s life.  In severe cases, however, the marks may not disappear and they may become a permanent disfigurement.  If too much pressure is placed on the sides of the head with the forceps, indentations can appear on the baby’s head.

What is Vacuum Extraction?

There are 2 types of vacuum extraction: (1) the soft cup method and (2) the metal cup method.  The soft cup vacuum extraction is generally considered to be gentler on the baby and mother.  Although the metal cup vacuum extraction rarely becomes detached from the newborn, it carries a greater risk of injury to the newborn.  Both methods of vacuum extraction methods carry a risk of a subgaleal hemorrhage, in which there is bleeding between the newborn’s scalp and skull, as well as retinal birth injuries, bruising and disfigurement if the vacuum extraction method is used incorrectly.

Parents Should Proceed with Caution

Although both forceps and vacuum extraction carry risks for the mother and baby, that does not mean that they are not sometimes necessary or helpful for childbirth.  Parents are advised to fully discuss the risks with their doctor before making a decision to proceed with a delivery assisted by forceps or vacuum extraction.  Doctors are under an obligation to inform parents of the risks associated with the procedure and to use appropriate standards of care when administering the techniques.

If a child is born via vacuum extraction, parents should keep a close eye on their child’s development since delayed or deficient motor skills or seizures can be a sign the baby suffered a birth injury related to use of the special medical equipment.

If your child has suffered a birth injury as a result of a delivery assistance technique, you should promptly consult a medical malpractice attorney. The Chicago area attorneys at Ankin Law Offices, LLC are highly skilled personal injury attorneys with extensive experience handling a variety of medical malpractice claims involving birth injuries such as forceps and vacuum extraction injuries, cerebral palsy and bone fractures.

Categories: Head Injuries