You go into labor with the best intentions and the highest hopes for an easy birth and a healthy baby. Unfortunately, situations can arise during labor and delivery that jeopardize this hope. Under these circumstances, doctors sometimes decide to pursue an assisted delivery approach. The most common assisted deliveries use forceps or vacuums to help the child through the birth canal. Sadly, things can go wrong during assisted delivery that result in permanent harm to your child.
When a doctor miscalculates the best delivery method or improperly uses assistive tools, your child may be injured. If you have found yourself in this devastating situation, contact our New Jersey birth injury lawyers to find out what you can do. Continue reading for more information about the possible risks and results of assisted delivery.
What is an Assisted Delivery?
The term “assisted delivery” refers to the use of specialized tools to facilitate moving the baby through the birth canal. If you have been pushing for quite some time and your labor hasn’t progressed sufficiently, your baby is showing signs of distress, you suffer from a medical condition such as high blood pressure or heart disease, or another situation occurs in which your baby needs to be delivered right away, your doctor may decide that an assisted delivery is the best option. There are two primary ways to conduct an assisted delivery, via vacuum extraction or the use of forceps. Each of these assisted delivery methods and their risks are described in greater detail below.
What can go Wrong when using Forceps to Deliver?
Forceps are a frequently-used medical tool during surgery and other other procedures. They are also one of the assistive devices used during assisted delivery. These forceps are shaped like two large spoons, which are placed on either side of the baby’s head. During a contraction, the doctor will use the forceps to guide the baby through the birth canal.
During prolonged or stressful labors or other situations in which the child must be delivered right away, your doctor may determine that forceps are the most appropriate option for the situation. However, the use of forceps has been associated with increased complications when compared with Cesarean delivery under certain circumstances. Some of the injuries which may result from improper use of forceps or using forceps in an inappropriate situation include: facial paralysis or weakness in the facial muscles, skull fracture, eye injuries, and bleeding in the skull. When trauma during forceps delivery affects the brain, possible long-term health conditions like seizure disorders and Cerebral Palsy are also possible.
What are the Risks of Vacuum Delivery?
Similar to a vacuum in your home, vacuum extractors employ suction during delivery to assist in removing the baby from the birth canal. When the child has descended sufficiently and is in an appropriate position, a specialized cup is attached to the top of the baby’s head. While the mother is pushing, the doctor will use the suction of the vacuum to pull the baby through the birth canal.
While vacuum extraction can be useful in certain cases, it also has its share of risks. Research has shown an association between vacuum deliveries and increased rates of fractures, scalp lacerations, and brachial plexus injuries when compared the C-section method. Other possible outcomes of vacuum delivery errors include hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, bleeding in the skull, and Cerebral Palsy. Vacuum delivery is also associated with a greater risk of shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone.
How can Assisted Delivery Cause Birth Injuries?
The potential dangers of assisted delivery have been established on numerous occasions in the medical literature. One study, published in Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that when the baby’s head is halfway down the birth canal, assisted delivery using vacuums or forceps has significantly greater risks when compared with a C-section in the same situation. Specifically, the research revealed higher rates of birth injuries and maternal injuries when compared with Cesarean delivery under the same circumstances.
Further, the study results revealed a 5 to 10-times greater likelihood of severe birth trauma when vacuums or forceps were employed in the mid-pelvic stage of delivery as opposed to Cesarean section. Examples of said birth trauma include permanent palsies, organ damage involving the liver or spleen, and bleeding in the brain.
With the associated risks of assisted delivery, doctors must consider a variety of factors before making a decision about the best method for individual patients. Some of the scenarios in which assisted delivery is not recommended include:
- The baby’s head has not descended past the midpoint of the birth canal
- The position of the child’s head is undetermined
- The child is not head-first (the shoulders or arms are above the head)
- The baby is unusually large (fetal macrosomia) and may not fit through the birth canal
- The child has a bleeding condition or weak bones
- If the baby is less than 34 weeks
Beyond considering the above and other factors that may influence the success of using assistive tools, doctors must be specially trained and experienced in the proper use of forceps and vacuum extractors in order to prevent serious harm to the mother and child.
Has Your Child been Injured in Assisted Delivery?
If your doctor made a mistake with vacuums or forceps and your child was injured, it is vital to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable birth injury attorney. When medical negligence occurs because a healthcare provider lacked sufficient training, improperly used a tool, pulled the baby too forcefully, or didn’t respond quickly enough to fetal distress, those injured can recover compensation. Our team of birth injury lawyers zealously advocates for children and their loved ones across New Jersey who have suffered harm due to medical malpractice. Call us today at 866-708-8617 to speak with an attorney free of charge about your case.
- Guidelines for Operative Vaginal Delivery, Contemporary OB/GYN
- Vacuum extraction, MayoClinic
- Forceps delivery, MayoClinic
- Perinatal and maternal morbidity and mortality after attempted operative vaginal delivery at midpelvic station, Muraca GM, et al. CMAJ Jun 2017, 189 (22) E764-E772.