12 Things You Didn't Know About A Forceps And Vacuum Delivery

Pregnancy is no walk in the park for most women, and neither is childbirth. While some women sail through both with nary a whimper, others, well, it just plain hurts and is one of the most difficult things they will ever have to go through. Then there are the women that experience things somewhere else in the middle; not too painful, but not too easy either. It’s good for Moms-to-be to realize that they have many options available to them today for as easy and quick a labor as possible.

There is natural childbirth that is drug-free. There is vaginal birth with drugs and some assistance, and then there is something called assisted births. These are births where there are some complications that arise and women have to be helped for mom and baby to have as healthy and quick a delivery as possible. It is often not an easy decision for doctors to make to proceed with an assisted birth, nor is it easy for the women. Many feel bad as they think of it as losing power in their birthing experience. This is not true, though it is true that they have a little less of an active role in assisted births.

Assisted births are basically births such as c-sections, as well as forceps and vacuum deliveries. In all these cases, the surgeries and interventions are planned when women are too tired to push and they or their babies could be at risk for complications. But what about if these assisted technologies pose more of threat than not? There are obviously pros and cons with any birth method and all things must be looked at before determining how a woman will deliver. On that note, here are 12 things you didn’t know about a forceps and vacuum delivery.

12  Lots Of Tearing

Tearing. Yikes. Even the word can make a lot of women cringe and feel stressed. But how else is an entire baby going to come out of one small opening? It may stretch, but it is not as big as a life size door. It’s important then for the woman and her doctor to discuss both types of delivery and what is her best option. With a forceps delivery, there could be some complications to baby due to the instrument being placed directly on the child’s head. With a vacuum delivery, it is said to be a lot gentler and not as invasive for baby. Both of these methods mean direct touching of these instruments on the baby's head, however. Some women received bad experiences with the forceps when they were used by doctors who did not have the proper training. Babies ended up in serious or critical conditions as a result.

11 It Can Cause Bruising

Bruising is something very common with a forceps birth and sometimes with vacuum assisted deliveries as well. Cephalohaematoma happens to roughly 1 and 12 in 100 babies and disappears with time. No long term harm comes with it, but it is still scary. Even with vacuum, if the vacuum is continuously tried over and over, it could leave a mark on the baby’s head that may take a few days to go away. Sometimes more serious problems could arise such head and brain injuries. These are not as common thank God, but precautions have to be taken. The most important thing to remember is for a woman to make sure her doctor is well trained to handle any complications that can occur. She also needs to trust her gut when making any decision concerning her baby as well.

10 Lacerations Or Swelling On Baby’s Head

Unfortunately, though risk is minimal when the doctors are well-trained, sometimes these two assisted techniques can also lead to lacerations or swelling in baby’s head. Both instruments if used incorrectly or for too long, can affect baby and cause damage to the head in small amounts which means a few days of recuperation for baby. Or in more severe cases where baby develops severe bleeding in the head, recuperation can take a lot longer. This type of injury can cause brain damage and/or any other kind of neurological injury or issue to happen which can affect a baby and his/her parents for life. This is why doctors need to be careful when they are performing any kind of assisted birth to get baby out safely. Any kind of little misstep can lead to complications.

9 Forceps May Be Gentler

A forceps delivery involves inserting a special metal instrument into the woman that looks like large spoons or tongs to help pull a baby out. The forceps are curved to fit around the baby’s head and joined at the handles. With each contraction and Mom’s pushing, baby gets closer to exiting and the woman’s doctor will help ease baby out with these tools. If the instrument is used by a trained medical professional and is done in the most gentle way possible, the risks are quite low. Vacuum delivery on the other hand, can sometimes be more complicated. It is a different kind of mechanism with a special suction that is basically placed on the baby’s head. That suction is attached to baby and the baby is pulled out gently from the Mom if they are stuck in utero.

8 It Might Come Down To A C-Section

Any doctor who is experienced and knowledgeable will be able to see if the woman is not progressing with either a vacuum assisted birth or forceps assisted delivery. They will have tried one or the other method and if the baby is not making any progress in coming out, usually a c-section will be recommended. As the woman will already have been given an epidural, she will be more easily able to progress to a c-section delivery. A caesarean section is when a baby is delivered through a cut that is made across the woman’s stomach below her bikini line. As it is a major operation, it is only done in the case that it ends up being the safest option for a woman and her baby.

7 Mom Might Need Stitches 

In some cases where there are medical errors or if something else goes wrong during the baby’s delivery, a woman may end up needing a lot more stitches in order to heal from her labor and delivery. This is not the usual common occurrence thank goodness, but sometimes if complications arise there could be a longer recovery time for a woman who has an assisted birth. Forceps births tend to be more painful and uncomfortable and you are more likely to need a regional or general anesthetic. Also though forceps have a higher success rate as previously mentioned, there is more likelihood of sustaining damage to one’s pelvic floor or perineum. This is where more stitches will be needed as well as a longer recovery time for the woman’s body to bounce back.

6 They Account For 10-15% Of All Births

Most assisted deliveries are not super common, but do account for 10-15% of all births that occur. Sometimes there are complications that arise that were unforeseen and things quickly become complicated and/or have to move at a much faster pace. Other times, right from the beginning, a woman is told her options and how an assisted birth is the best option for a safe birth for her baby and for herself. It’s important that she is given all the options right from the beginning so that she knows what to expect and be able, with her doctor’s help, to make the best possible decision for a happy and healthy delivery. She should never worry that her birth experience is not a certain way. Every pregnancy and delivery is completely different, and just because she had one assisted delivery it does not mean her next birth will be complicated.

5 Routine Operation

Another thing a woman has to realize is that even if there are risks associated with any assisted births over natural vaginal births, as long as the medical practitioners presiding over the births are trained to use the technology for assistance, everything will be fine and the woman and her baby will most likely be able to recover from any side effects caused by the tools and the procedure. She also has to keep in mind that a doctor will not recommend an assisted birth for no reason. It will be due to any kind of complication, and it will be in hers and her baby’s best interest as well as safety. If at any time she has any concerns, she should not hesitate to ask questions.

4 Use External Force To Get Baby Out

Yes, although it sounds a little scary and dangerous, it is important that a woman realizes that both a forceps or vacuum delivery uses an external force to get the baby out of the woman’s body. This sounds a little harsh and dangerous, and frankly it can be in the hands of someone who does not know what they are doing. That is why there is no shame in her asking any questions to clarify what the procedure is and what will be happening to get baby out as quickly and safely as possible. A woman has to also realize that a lot of her power is given over to the medical personnel who are using their instruments to get the baby out safely. It does not mean she does not have any involvement in her child’s birth, only that she needs some help getting baby out.

3 Pushing Can Still Be Done

Another thing that sometimes is forgotten in the moment when a doctor makes a decision for an assisted delivery, is for the woman to be allowed to continue to try and push her baby out herself beforehand. This does not mean that the doctor waits until a safety code has been breached, but only gives a woman a chance to try and push baby out naturally and on her own before deciding on anything else as being the better method. Sometimes with just a few more minutes of pushing, a whole unnecessary surgery could be avoided. This again depends on the doctor’s calls. However, if he/she is flexible and has experience, they may be able to see that there are other ways to get things done and to get baby delivered safely.

2 Baby Can Have Intracranial Bleed

Most doctors are very experienced with either forceps or vacuum deliveries. A woman has the opportunity to ask her doctor if he/she is more comfortable or more experienced with one procedure or another. It is very important to verify this, and for both parties to feel confident as sometimes there could be a risk of something called an "Intracranial Hemorrhage" if the instruments are used incorrectly. This is when baby experiences bleeding in their skull. It happens when something goes wrong with either a vacuum or forceps delivery. It could be too much pressure with the instruments and this results in bleeding in the baby's skull. This is a rare occurrence fortunately, and any kind of swelling or marks on baby's head will usually go away in a few days.

1 It Can Misshape Baby’s Head

Then there is the literature that says any types of deliveries that use instruments can misshape a baby’s head. Now, most of the time there is bruising or other types of marks or shape distortions that end up being temporary and go away within a few hours to a few days. Other times though, if the technique is not performed appropriately and correctly with these instruments, there could be longer lasting damage to the head and even permanent damage to the shape of the head and to what is going on inside the brain. A lot of neurological issues and impairments have been blamed on the way the baby was delivered and came into the world. This is why it is so important to make sure that all safety precautions are taken from the outset to allow for as safe a delivery as possible.

Sources: Baby Center, ABC Laws Center, What To Expect, NHS, Web MD

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