Birth Trauma: Delivery by Forceps or Vacuum Extraction

November 19, 2010
By on November 19, 2010 5:35 PM |

When the delivery process is stalled or complicated, the use of forceps or vacuum extraction may be necessary. While both of these procedures have been used for many years, they still present a risk to your baby when conducted improperly. A Cleveland birth injury attorney can help you file a claim against your doctors if your baby was harmed because of the use of forceps or vacuum extraction.

The Basics of Vacuum Extraction and Use of Forceps

There are many birth complications that necessitate the use of forceps or the vacuum extractor method. When the mother is unable to naturally pass the baby through the birth canal within a safe time period, these methods may be employed to assist in the process.

Forceps are curved metal tongs that are inserted to gently grasp the baby's head and assist in pulling it from the birth canal during contractions. Forceps were among some of the first techniques used to assist with difficult births. There are many types of forceps used, depending on the mother's body and the position of the baby.

Vacuum extraction is another assistive method that helps pull the baby down the birth canal using gentle suction that attaches a cup to the baby's scalp. There are 2 types of vacuum extraction: metal cup and soft cup. The metal cup is more reliable as there is less occurrence of detachment during extraction, but it poses more of a risk of bruising and other fetal scalp injuries. Soft cup extractions have a higher failure rate because of cup detachment but are easier to perform and cause less scalp trauma.

Risks of Vacuum Extraction and Forceps

Both the condition of the mother and the baby determine when vacuum extraction or forceps are necessary to assist in the birthing process. Assistance may be necessary when the mother has cardiac or cerebrovascular disease, has been unable to provide the necessary efforts for a vaginal birth or is in any other danger. When the baby shows a non-reassuring fetal heart rate, is caught in a prolonged second stage of labor or has failed to progress to the second stage, assistance is often required.

While both vacuum extraction and forceps methods are still widely used in assistance of vaginal delivery, there are pros and cons to each method. Your doctor should review all details of the birthing situation, including the mother's condition, the baby's health and position and the time constraints before serious injury occurs. Improper choice of extraction method and mishandling can cause birth injuries to the woman and her child.

Infant Injuries Resulting from Vacuum Extraction or Forceps

The biggest risk in using vacuum extraction or forceps in the birthing process is damage to the child's scalp. A baby's skull and scalp are extremely fragile at birth and can be easily bruised, cut or deformed. While most birth injuries caused by vacuum extraction or forceps are merely cosmetic and clear up within the first month, many can cause serious, permanent disfigurement or injury.

Some of the less severe birth injuries that occur with vacuum extraction or forceps use are:

• bruising of the face and head;
• facial paralysis;
• fractured bones; and
• subconjunctival hemorrhage.

With proper treatment, most of these injuries resolve within a few weeks of birth and do not present any long-term complications.

Subgaleal hemorrhage occurs in 1 to 3.8% of vacuum extractions but has become less common in recent years. This injury occurs when there is bleeding between the scalp and skull. Left untreated, this type of injury can cause anemia, seizures, shock and death. The symptoms of swelling may not occur until 2 to 3 days after birth, so it is important for doctors to assess newborns delivered by vacuum extraction for head size and vital conditions.

Another common type of birth injury with vacuum extraction or forceps is a brachial plexus injury. Sometimes known as Erb's Palsy or shoulder dystocia, this is when the bundle of nerves in the shoulder that controls the movement of the arm is damaged. With mild damage, the nerves generally repair themselves in a few weeks. Serious trauma can lead to paralysis and surgery may be necessary to attempt to correct the injury.

Maternal Injuries Resulting from Vacuum Extraction or Forceps

The very nature of vacuum extraction and forceps extraction methods can cause undue trauma to the mother during delivery. A doctor who improperly uses forceps during birth assistance may damage the uterus or vaginal walls, causing permanent injury and severe bleeding.

If left uncared for, an internal laceration can cause severe pain, hemorrhaging and nerve damage. A woman may go into shock from blood loss if not treated immediately. Vacuum extractions can also cause stress and potential injury if the cup detaches and must be replaced.

Minimizing Birth Injuries from Vacuum Extraction and Forceps Use

Your doctor should explain the possibility of the need to use vacuum extraction or forceps well before labor has begun so you are aware of some of the potential events during birth. When the decision needs to be made to use either method, your doctor should clearly explain the risks and benefits to you and your child.

Following the procedure, your newborn should be checked for any cranial damage, as well as other potential birth injury. As a patient, you should also be examined to make sure there are no internal lacerations, hemorrhages or other forms of damage to the uterus. If any injury occurs to either mother or child, you should contact a Cleveland birth injury attorney to file a medical malpractice claim.

Contacting a Cleveland Birth Injury Attorney

You place the health and safety of your new baby in the hands of your doctors believing you'll have a healthy new addition to your family. When a medical professional's negligence results in the serious injury, permanent disability or death of the infant or the mother, the impact on your family can be devastating.

The knowledgeable team of Cleveland birth injury attorneys at The Becker Law Firm serves residents of the Cleveland and Elyria, Ohio areas when they have been the victims of birth injury, catastrophic injury and wrongful death because of medical malpractice. To arrange for a no-cost consultation, home or hospital visit, contact us today - (440) 372-0810.