Vacuum Extraction Injury
What is Vacuum Extraction?
A vacuum extraction, also known as a vacuum-assisted delivery, is a delivery technique sometimes performed during the course of a vaginal birth. This procedure is used to assist when a mother cannot deliver by herself and a forceps delivery is not possible. Ordinarily, the vacuum effectively aids in the birthing process; however, when the equipment fails or is utilized incorrectly by medical personnel, serious birth injuries can occur.
What Happens During a Vacuum Extraction?
During a vacuum extraction, a doctor will apply a medical vacuum to the baby’s head equipped with a special cup attached to a vacuum pump. This vacuum will help guide the baby out of the birth canal while the mother pushes at the same time. This procedure is recommended as a last resort to help labor progress faster when pushing is not enough and is usually recommended during the second stage of labor. This procedure may also be recommended if the baby or mother is showing signs of distress and a more immediate delivery is necessary. Even though doctors recommend this procedure, there is significant risk of injury to both the mother and baby. If a vacuum extraction fails, an emergency cesarean section (C-section) may be required to deliver the baby safely.
Why Would My Doctor Choose This Procedure?
Doctors choose to perform a vacuum extraction if a mother’s labor is not progressing according to plan. When a mother’s cervix is fully dilated, her membranes have ruptured, and the baby has descended into the birth canal headfirst but is unable to push the baby out, a vacuum extraction may be the best option for assisting with the delivery. A vacuum extraction can only be performed in a birthing center or hospital where a C-section can be performed if needed.
A doctor may recommend a vacuum extraction if:
- The mother is pushing but labor is not progressing. After a certain period of time, labor will be considered prolonged, and that can lead to higher risk of birth injury.
- The baby’s heartbeat is changing unexpectedly and an immediate delivery is necessary.
- The mother has a health condition that would make a prolonged birth very risky – such as having heart issues.
Your doctor may caution against vacuum extraction if:
- The mother is less than 34 weeks pregnant.
- The baby already has an identified condition that affects the strength of his or her bones, such as osteogenesis imperfecta, or a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia.
- The baby’s head has not moved past the midpoint of the birth canal.
- The position of the baby’s head is unknown.
- The baby’s body, other than its head, is leading through the birth canal.
- The baby may be too large to fit through the birth canal .
After delivering the baby, the doctor will examine the mother and baby for injuries that may have been caused by the vacuum extraction. Tears must be repaired. If an episiotomy was performed, it will also be repaired. The baby must be monitored after being born for signs of birth injury.
Vacuum Extraction Injuries for Mothers
A vacuum extraction poses a risk of injury for both mother and baby. While any of these risks are also associated with vaginal deliveries in general, they’re more likely to occur with a vacuum extraction. Vacuum extraction injuries for mothers include:
- Short-term or long-term urinary or fecal incontinence (involuntary urination or defecation)
- Injuries to the bladder or urethra that prevent urination or complete emptying of the bladder
- Wounds and tears in the lower genital tract
- Pain in the perineum — the tissue between the vagina and anus — after delivery
- Pelvic Organ Prolapse
- Women who undergo episiotomies (a cutting of the vagina to aid in the birthing process) during vacuum extraction are also at higher risk for infections and postpartum bleeding.
Vacuum Extraction Injuries for Babies
Babies face a number of unique risks from vacuum extraction, including:
- Scalp or facial injuries
- Facial Palsy (temporary or long term weakness in the facial muscles)
- External eye trauma
- Skull fracture and/or bruising
- Shoulder dystocia
- Subdural hematoma (bleeding within the skull or brain)
The doctor may also have to perform an episiotomy — an incision in the tissue between the vagina and anus — before placing the vacuum, to allow the baby to be delivered safely. This will require an increase in recovery time for the mother.
Long Term Effects of Vacuum Extraction
While possible risks exist for the baby to sustain minor injuries during a vacuum delivery, it is also possible for them to receive severe traumatic birth injuries. Long term effects of vacuum extraction injuries not only include spinal injuries, brain damage, and paralysis, but also, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, and even death. All of these injuries can be emotionally taxing and require significant medical attention, including physical therapy, surgeries, assistive devices, and other financial burdens.
Vacuum Extraction Injury Attorneys
If your child suffered an injury due to a vacuum extraction delivery, then you should immediately contact Lopez McHugh LLP. Our Philadelphia vacuum extraction injury attorneys provide confidential consultations. There is no upfront cost for working with us and we work on a contingency fee basis so you won’t owe us anything unless we help you recover compensation.