A forceps delivery might be considered if the mother is in labor and the baby has descended into the birth canal headfirst, but she is not able to push the baby out. Forceps are specially designed tongs, which are used to grasp the baby by the head and gently pull the baby through the birth canal with each contraction.
According to the Mayo Clinic, forceps should only be considered in the following situations:
- You’re pushing, but labor isn’t progressing. Labor is considered prolonged if you haven’t made progress after a certain period of time.
- Your baby’s heartbeat suggests a problem. If you are fully dilated, the baby is low in the birth canal, and your health care provider is concerned about changes in your baby’s heartbeat, immediate delivery may be necessary. In such a case, he or she might recommend a forceps delivery.
- You have a health concern. If you have certain medical conditions — such as heart disease or high blood pressure — your health care provider might limit the amount of time you push.
The Mayo Clinic also notes that a forceps delivery should never be attempted unless a C-section can be done, if needed.
According to Healthline Parenthood, there are other conditions that must be met before an assisted delivery should be attempted:
- The birthing parent must be fully dilated.
- The presentation of the baby must be known (the position baby is facing) and the baby’s head should be engaged (meaning baby’s head has dropped down into the pelvis). Baby’s head must be low enough in the pelvis for the forceps or /vacuum to be used.
- The membranes must be ruptured, either spontaneously or by a healthcare provider.
- The pregnant parent’s bladder must be empty.
- Consent must be obtained from the birthing parent.
Proper placement of the forceps is crucial. The goal is to grasp the baby carefully on either side of its head (near the ears/cheeks). If placed improperly, if it has to be repositioned, or if too much force is used, it can cause a birth injury. Some of these injuries can be severe and/or permanent. Although rare, the risks of forceps deliveries include:
- Temporary or permanent facial injuries
- Nerve damage, such as Brachial Plexus injuries
- Facial palsy (weakness in the facial muscles, which is usually temporary)
- Eye injuries, including retinal hemorrhage
- Skull fracture
- Intracranial bleeding (blood vessels within the skull)
- Brain bleeding
- Permanent brain damage
The use of forceps was a major breakthrough in the medical history of obstetrics, resulting in more successful deliveries and saving countless lives. Forceps deliveries have become less common with the introduction of vacuum-based instruments for assisted deliveries. However, now that forceps-assisted deliveries have become fairly rare, it could introduce an issue where doctors aren’t trained or as experienced in the use of obstetrical forceps, creating a greater risk of injuring the baby with improper technique.
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If you or your child suffered a birth injury during the labor and delivery process like HIE or cerebral palsy, Brown & Barron, LLC is here to help. We have significant experience negotiating with large hospitals and their insurers, and this experience may mean the difference between your claim’s success or failure. We encourage you to contact us today to learn about your legal options.