A forceps delivery is a type of assisted delivery that is sometimes needed in the course of vaginal childbirth. During a forceps delivery, a medical provider applies an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs to the baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. This is usually done during a contraction while the mother pushes.
A medical provider might recommend a forceps delivery during the second stage of labour while the mother is pushing, if the labour is not progressing or if the baby's safety depends on an immediate delivery. This might be necessary if the baby’s heartbeat suggests a problem, for example. A delivery by forceps may also be considered if the mother has an underlying medical concern, such as heart disease or high blood pressure.
Although a forceps delivery may be recommended during delivery of the baby, it may be associated with certain risks. If a forceps delivery fails, a caesarean delivery (C-section) might be needed.
Most of these risks are also associated with vaginal deliveries in general, but they are more likely with a forceps delivery.
Before placing the forceps, your medical provider may also have to perform an episiotomy, which is an incision of the tissue between the vagina and anus.
Some possible risks to your baby include:
- Minor facial injuries due to the pressure of the forceps
- Permanent facial marks
- Temporary weakness in the facial muscles (facial palsy)
- Eye trauma
- Skull fracture
- Bleeding within the skull
Your medical practitioner may caution against a forceps delivery if, for example, the baby has a condition that affects the strength of his or her bones, such as osteogenesis imperfecta, or if the baby has a bleeding disorder, such as haemophilia. Caution may also be exercised if the position of the baby's head is not known, the baby's shoulders or arms are leading the way through the birth canal, or the baby is unlikely to fit through the pelvis.
Injury due to a forceps delivery does not always amount to medical negligence. Medical negligence means that the care you received fell below an acceptable standard and you or your baby were injured as a result. If you consider that you or your baby have been injured due to a lack of reasonable medical care, please contact our team of medical negligence solicitors at HOMS Assist to find out whether you may be entitled to redress under the law.
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