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Risks Associated With the Use of Forceps

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The percentage of birth injuries associated with the use of forceps is particularly high.

Risks Associated With the Use of Forceps

Doctors have been using birth assisting tools during difficult deliveries since the 1800s. They can be extremely helpful when used appropriately; however, the percentage of birth injuries associated with forceps is particularly high. Although statistics reveal that birth injuries caused by forceps use is a cause of concern, doctors continue to use them in spite of a clear danger of inflicting injury to the infant.

How Forceps Are Used

Forceps are a birth-assisting tool with an open end that is placed around the baby’s head to help guide the baby out during contractions. Most doctors agree that the risk of injury while using forceps is very real. However, if there are complications during labor and delivery, the use of forceps becomes important.  Forceps are typically used when the mother is unable to push the infant out during delivery because of maternal exhaustion, illness, infection, prolonged second stage of delivery, or hemorrhage.

There are fetal conditions as well that can necessitate the use of forceps. This includes fetal distress and breech delivery. Both maternal and fetal factors are time emergent and a physician will use forceps as the situation demands. In most cases, forceps are used only when there is a means to perform an emergency C-section if the use of forceps fail.

Risks Associated With the Use of Forceps

The use of forceps puts both the mother and the child at risk for injury. The risks that the mother faces include:

  • lacerations or tears in the lower genital tract area
  • urinary or fecal incontinence
  • anemia
  • perineum pain
  • urethra injuries
  • bladder injuries

Risks for the infant include:

  • facial injuries and facial palsy
  • skull fractures
  • bruising and swelling on the head
  • brain damage
  • seizures

Symptoms of Forceps Injury

In most cases the symptoms of forceps injury are clearly evident. The most common symptoms include bruising and lacerations. Other symptoms are nerve damage, hemorrhage, misshapen head, and skull fractures.  Forceps injuries can be quite serious. It is important for the baby to be checked for a variety of head and brain injuries that pose serious health concerns, including seizure disorders, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, and cerebral palsy.

Birth Injuries from Forceps and Vacuum Extractors

What is a vacuum extractor?

A vacuum extractor is comprised of a small rubberlike cup hooked up to a vacuum. This cup attaches to a newborn’s head and through gentle suction helps pull the baby out during delivery, usually as the mother pushes.

What are forceps?

Forceps are a metal surgical tool with rounded edges. They are designed to fit around a newborn’s head and help pull the baby out during delivery, again, usually as the mother pushes.

When is a vacuum extractor or forceps utilized?

The use of a vacuum extractor or forceps is typically needed when the labor is unusually difficult, long, when the fetus is in distress or when the mother is unable to push hard enough.

What type of birth injuries can occur with a vacuum extractor or forceps?

The following types of birth injuries can occur through the use of a vacuum extractor:

The following types of birth injuries can occur through the use of forceps:

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