A recent study has revealed that babies delivered with forceps or vacuum extraction are 80 percent more susceptible to injuries and death than those delivered by way of cesarean section. The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), included data about 187,000 births in Canada between 2003 and 2013.
The study shows that mothers are three to five times more likely to suffer trauma in a forceps or vacuum delivery with 19 percent of the mothers whose delivery involved forceps having obstetric tearing described as severe; vacuum extraction had a 12 percent chance of tearing; and 20 percent of mothers who had a combination of both forceps and vacuum extraction deliveries.
When are Forceps or Vacuum Extraction Used?
Forceps and vacuum extraction are used when the baby suffers distress during delivery. Vacuum extraction uses suction to get the baby out of the mother’s birth canal faster. It has become a preferred method due to a belief that it is a safer way than the use of forceps. Specifically, it has been thought to significantly lessen any risk of nerve damage to the baby’s face.
However, vacuum extraction has proven not to be completely safe. Bleeding inside the baby’s head or between the skull and scalp may occur. This may cause cerebral palsy, brain damage, and developmental problems.
Birth injuries throughout the United States affect about 7 out of every 1,000 children. The impact of injuries suffered at birth can be devastating and irreparable. The more serious events include: cerebral palsy, internal bleeding, brain injury due to hypoxia (deficiency of oxygen), spinal cord damage, bone fractures, and umbilical cord strangulation.
Parker Waichman LLP is a nationwide, renowned personal injury law firm that has successful and extensive experience representing clients in medical negligence litigation. The attorneys at the firm are available to answer questions from anyone seeking information for a potential lawsuit.
Forceps Delivery and Potential Risks
Forceps delivery is a type of assisted vaginal delivery where a healthcare provider applies forceps – an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or tongs – to the baby’s head to assist guiding the baby out of the birth canal. This is normally done during a contraction while the mother pushes, if the labor is not progressing safely or the baby’s safety depends on immediate delivery, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A forceps delivery should only be done in a birthing center or hospital where a C-section (cesarean) can be performed if necessary. Possible risks to the mother in a forceps delivery are: lower genital tract tears and wounds; difficulty urinating or emptying the bladder; short term or long-term urinary or fecal incontinence; anemia (a condition in which there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues, due to blood loss during delivery).
Additional potential injuries may be to the bladder or urethra (tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body); uterine rupture, (when the uterine wall is torn, which could allow the baby or placenta to be pushed into the mother’s abdominal cavity); weakening of the muscles and ligaments supporting the pelvic organs, causing pelvic organs to drop lower in the pelvis (pelvic organ prolapse).
Although most of these risks are associated with vaginal deliveries as well, they are more likely with a forceps delivery, notes the Mayo Clinic.
There may also be an episiotomy performed – an incision in the tissue between the vagina and anus, that can help ease the delivery of the baby. This procedure has a risk of postpartum bleeding and infection.
Risks to the Baby – Forceps Delivery
Possible risks to the baby are: minor facial injury due to the pressure of the forceps, temporary weakness in facial muscles (facial palsy), minor external eye trauma, skull fracture, bleeding within the skull, and seizures. Minor marks on the baby’s face after a forceps delivery are normal and temporary. Serious infant injuries after this type of delivery are rare, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Vacuum Extraction Delivery
A vacuum extraction might be considered if the labor meets the criteria comparable to the forceps delivery guidelines: when the cervix is fully dilated, the membranes have ruptured and the baby has descended into the birth canal headfirst, but the mother is not able to push the baby out.
Risks to the Baby – Vacuum Extraction
Possible risks to the baby with a vacuum extraction are: scalp wounds; higher risk of getting the baby’s shoulder stuck after the head has been delivered, leading to an injury to the network of nerves that sends signals from the spine to the shoulder; arm and hand (brachial plexus); or a collarbone fracture; skull fracture, bleeding within the skull. The Mayo Clinic adds, that serious infant injuries after vacuum extraction are rare.
Legal Information Concerning Medical Negligence
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