Forceps and Vacuum Extractor Injuries

In certain cases where a mother’s vaginal delivery is strained or slow, doctors can use instruments to help pull the baby out of the birth canal. Delivery assistance instruments require highly trained personnel to be able to use them properly. Improper use can lead to brain bleeding, hemorrhage and a wide range of disabilities. There are very strict standards for when and how these instruments should be used. In fact, the FDA has released a Public Health Advisory against the use of vacuum extractors because of the increased risk of severe complications after their use.

Despite the most careful planning and preparation, problems can arise during labor and delivery, especially during the pushing stage. Sometimes labor is prolonged and the mother is too tired to push the baby out. Other times the position of the baby may prevent delivery. And most seriously, there may be irregularities in the baby’s heart rate or oxygen level. In these instances, the medical team may decide that the use of a tool is necessary in order to quickly and safely deliver the baby.

There are two tools used in assisted delivery – forceps and vacuum extractors. Forceps resemble large salad tongs. They are placed on either side of the baby’s head
near the ears and cheeks. As each contraction occurs, the doctor guides the baby’s head downward, out of the birth canal. A vacuum extractor uses a small, soft cup that is applied to the top and back of the baby’s head. A tube runs from the cup to a vacuum pump that provides suction. During a contraction, the physician pulls or applies gentle traction to the baby’s head while suction from the vacuum assists in pulling the baby’s head out of the birth canal.

When either forceps or a vacuum extractor is used properly, the infant can be delivered relatively quickly and should not sustain any major harm. If used improperly, however, the damage can be extensive and permanent. Vacuum extractor injuries can cause a baby to have intracranial hemorrhages (brain bleeds), strokes, seizures, cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.

Michigan Birth Injury Lawyers Discuss Forceps & Vacuum Extractor Injuries

Correct placement of the forceps tongs is critical. If they are applied unevenly to the baby’s head, the strain could cause compression of the head as well as brain bleeds and hemorrhages. Other potential problems include facial bone distortions, brain swelling and brain damage which could generate other secondary issues such as seizures, epilepsy, and ischemia.

Similar problems can occur if the suction cup of the vacuum extractor is not placed correctly (about 3 centimeters back from the fontanel). The practitioner’s technique to pull the baby out is equally important – there should be no twisting of the head or neck, and no excessive pulling. Also, if the vacuum extractor pops off 3 times during use, the physician should move on to c-section to deliver the baby. Incorrect use of a vacuum extractor can result in skull fractures, retinal hemorrhages, brachial plexus injuries/Erb’s palsy, brain hemorrhages or bleeds, cerebral palsy and seizures.

The vacuum extractor has come under scrutiny in recent years as its use and resulting injuries have increased. In fact, the FDA cited its concerns in a Public Health Advisory on vacuum assisted delivery devices:

“This is to advise you that vacuum assisted devices may cause serious or fatal complications…While no instrumented delivery is risk free, we are concerned that some health care professionals who use vacuum assisted delivery devices, or those who care for these infants following delivery, may not be aware that the device may produce life-threatening complications.”

Whether a vacuum extractor or forceps are used, it is the responsibility of the medical professionals to inform the mother of the risks, ensure that the instrument is used appropriately and that the mother and infant are properly monitored both during and after birth in order to prevent vacuum extractor injuries.

Vacuum extractor; vents; fetal head injury; smbgaleal hematoma; intracranial hemorrhage; nuchal cord; vacuum extraction; subarachnoid hemorrhage; infant brain damage; neonatal brain injury

Legal Help for Forcep and Vacuum Extractor Injuries

Legal Help for Forcep and Vacuum Extractor InjuriesIf your baby had forceps or vacuum extractor injuries and now has a birth injury, the skilled attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers can help. Birth injury cases require specific, extensive knowledge of both law and medicine. In order to achieve the best results, our team believes it’s critical to specifically and exclusively handle birth injury cases. With over 100 years of joint legal experience, our legal team has the education, qualifications, results and accomplishments necessary to succeed. We’ve handled cases involving dozens of different complications, injuries and instances of medical malpractice related to obstetrics and neonatal care. Our clients hail from all over the United States, in places including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Mississippi, Washington D.C., and more.

Contact our birth injury attorneys and nurses in any of the following ways, and we’ll set up your free case review.

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Video: Birth Injury Attorney Jesse Reiter Discusses Forceps Delivery and Birth Injuries


Forceps are metal tongs that are sometimes used to help deliver a baby, and in some cases, can cause injury to the baby. Forceps are placed around the baby’s head and the baby is pulled forward for delivery. If forceps are not used correctly, such as not placed correctly on the head or pulled too tightly, the result can be bleeding on the brain and brain damage. Enlarge Video or View All Videos.

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