Forceps & Vacuum Extraction

Forceps & vacuum extraction may be used to speed delivery of your baby.

An assisted delivery may be carried out if your labour is prolonged or there is a delay in the second stage of labour that is causing you or your baby distress. It is estimated that either vacuum extraction or forceps are used in one in ten deliveries.

Forceps Delivery


Forceps come in various designs depending on the delivery. Basically they are like large salad tongs that are placed around the baby’s head at the temples to gently pull your baby out of the birth canal. They are only used if your cervix is fully dilated to 10cm and your baby’s head is nearing delivery. If your baby’s head is turned slightly in the birth canal, the obstetrician may rotate the head manually or use Kiellands forceps before easing your baby out.

For centuries forceps were the only medical interventions available to a woman whose labour was prolonged. If a delivery is particularly difficult, the pressure that is applied in a forceps can be considerable and sometimes the nerves may be temporarily damaged. Superficial bruising is common though more serious injury can involve neck or spine dislocation or nerve damage.

Permanent damage is rare and the majority of babies are absolutely fine after forcep delivery. Chiropractors and osteopaths, however, believe forcep delivery can be more damaging than initially thought. Specialists in craniosacral therapy believe there is growing evidence of long-term effects resulting from forcep delivery, including learning problems. Cranial sacral therapy is a treatment involving specific alignment of the bones of the skull and neck.


Vacuum extraction delivery

Vacuum Extraction

A vacuum extractor is more commonly used in preference to forceps. Vonteuse, or vacuum extraction, uses suction to pull the baby out of the birth canal. A vacuum cup is attached to the baby’s head. It can take between 10 and 20 minutes to be applied during which time you will probably be pushing. Once the cup is attached, it helps if you can bear down to assist the delivery. A vacuum extraction delivery often distorts your baby’s head at the site where the suction cap is applied. Swelling is common but is temporary. A very large bump can often turn into a large bruise and may even cause the baby to become jaundiced, but such complications are generally an exception.

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