Birth Injury From Forceps Delivery

In the hands of competent obstetrician, delivery by forceps can be quick, painless and safe.  Sometimes forceps are necessary in the event of difficult or emergency deliveries.  Improperly used, they can cause significant permanent injuries to mother and child.

What Are Forceps?

Forceps are instruments that are used to pull the baby out of the birth canal.  For most models, one end is curved to wrap around the baby’s head, and it connects at the base like a pair of scissors.  Some forceps are designed for general practitioners, to avoid being placed too far inside the mother’s body.  The ends of the forceps touch the tip of the baby’s cheek, which can cause facial nerve palsy if the doctor applies too much force.

When Is It Appropriate To Use Forceps?

Forceps are sometimes used when the baby is in distress or when the mother is having difficulty delivering the baby, like a breech position or prolonged labor.  The obstetrician must use the forceps carefully to help guide the baby through the pelvis.  In order to safely use forceps, the mother must be fully dilated and membranes must be ruptured.  Forceps are not appropriate with cephalopelvic disproportion, where the baby’s head is too large to pass through the mother’s pelvis.

Forceps Injuries

Injuries caused by improper use of forceps include:

    • Bruising or lacerations to the baby’s head
    • Bruising or lacerations to the cervix or vagina
    • Facial nerve palsy
    • Skull fracture
    • Brain damage
    • Intracranial hemorrhage

Forceps Versus Vacuum

The choice between forceps and vacuum is hotly debated in the obstetrical community.  Many studies show that they have equal rates of injuries generally.  However, vacuum likely has a higher rate of cephalohematoma and shoulder dystocia, while forceps use leads to a higher rate of facial nerve palsies and injuries to the mother.  The most important factor is operator experience and comfort level.

Contact us

If your obstetrician used forceps during the delivery of your child and either your or your child suffered injuries, including lacerations, facial nerve palsy, developmental delays, cerebral palsy or brachial plexus injuries, contact our medical malpractice attorneys at (855) 712-7818 or online for a free consultation.

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