What is a Forceps Delivery?
Forceps are a medical instrument that works like a pair of tongs to help extract a baby during delivery. Forceps are often used when the baby is stuck in the birthing canal or during a C-section. When used correctly during labor arrest, the use of forceps can be beneficial in that it may eliminate the need for an emergency cesarean section. However, this type of delivery can pose a high risk to both the mother and baby and when used incorrectly, they can cause serious damage to both the mother and the baby.
When Do Doctors Use Forceps?
Vaginal delivery is the safest and most common type of childbirth. In certain circumstances, the baby cannot be delivered through pushing alone and forceps may be used to cup the baby’s head and help guide the baby through the birth canal. Doctors pay attention to many indicators that either the mother or the baby are in distress during birth and may require a forceps delivery. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists requires the following criteria be met before proceeding with a forceps delivery:
- The mother’s cervix is fully dilated.
- There has been a rupture of membranes.
- The baby’s head is engaged (presenting in a certain way).
- The doctor knows the baby’s positioning in the birth canal.
- The baby’s weight has been estimated.
- The mother’s pelvis is adequate for a vaginal delivery and will not require a cesarean section.
- The mother’s bladder is empty.
- Anesthesia has been administered.
- The doctor(s) have obtained the mother’s consent and fully explained the risks and benefits of a forceps delivery.
- A back-up plan has been discussed if the forceps delivery fails.
- There is no chance of the mother having heart issues or neurological disease while she is pushing the baby out.
All of these conditions must be met before a doctor performs a forceps delivery. There are also certain conditions in which a forceps delivery should not be performed, including when the baby has been previously diagnosed with a bleeding disorder from prenatal blood testing or has been diagnosed with bone demineralization.
Even if all conditions are met and the mother has consented, there can be unforeseen complications from a forceps delivery that put the mother and baby at risk for short and long-term injuries.
Forceps Delivery Injuries for Mothers
Like any medical procedure, all births have risks, but the Mayo Clinic advises that risks are “more likely with a forceps delivery.” Some of the most common forceps delivery injuries for a mother include:
- Lower genital tract – including vaginal and perineal – wounds, lacerations, and tears
- Uterine rupture, difficulty urinating, or painful urination
- Short or long term urinary or fecal incontinence – the inability to control the release of urine or feces
- Short or long term injuries to the bladder or urethra
- Anemia — a condition in which there is a lack of healthy red blood cells used to carry adequate oxygen throughout the body
- Perineum Pain— pain in the tissue found between a woman’s vagina and anus
- Broken or fractured tailbone
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse – Weak muscles and ligaments in the abdomen cause pelvic organs to drop necessitating surgery
Forceps Delivery Injuries for Babies
Babies can also suffer from a variety of birth injuries caused by the improper use of forceps. Some of the most common forceps birth injuries for babies include:
- Facial injuries due to the pressure of the forceps that can cause disfigurement
- Temporary or long-term weakness in the facial muscles, also known as facial palsy
- Brain damage leading to Cerebral Palsy
- External eye trauma
- Skull bruising and/or fracture
- Shoulder dystocia
- Subdural hematoma – bleeding within the skull or brain
Long Term Effects of Forceps Delivery Injuries
While it is possible for the baby to sustain minor injuries during a forceps delivery, it is also possible for them to receive serious injuries. These may include spinal injuries, paralysis, cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and even death. Some of the symptoms of these serious injuries include: poor muscle coordination, muscle stiffness, weakness, tremors or ticks, seizures, and difficulty speaking or swallowing. Babies who suffer birth trauma caused by forceps may require a lifetime of medical care to manage their symptoms. For example, there is currently no cure for cerebral palsy and the financial burden on a family is very high.
Experienced Forceps Delivery Injury Attorneys
You have a limited amount of time to file a claim if you suspect your child has suffered a birth injury from a forceps delivery. If your child was injured during a forceps delivery and you don’t know how you will take care of their needs, you have legal options. The medical malpractice attorneys at Lopez McHugh have been holding medical providers and medical facilities of all types responsible for birth injuries for over 30 years. Call the experienced forceps delivery injury attorneys at Lopez McHugh LLP today for a free consultation to discuss your case.