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Forceps Delivery – A Risk?

In a few cases of vaginal delivery when the labor is not progressing smoothly, doctors may recommend use of forceps to help the baby come out. Not exactly a surgical procedure but it’s a kind of assisted delivery. It is not a 100% risk-free delivery and is suggested in certain situations of labor.

What is forceps delivery?

Forceps is a curved metal instrument similar to spoons or tongs. It is fitted around the baby’s head and held by the doctor with a handle. During contractions while the mother pushes the baby, obstetrician pulls the baby to come out of the birth canal using forceps.

This is usually advised when the labor is not progressing or immediate delivery is required to keep the baby safe. If the forceps delivery doesn’t help, immediate c-section is performed to take out the baby.

Criteria for forceps delivery

  • Cervix is completed dilated
  • Amniotic sac is ruptured
  • Baby has descended into the birth canal in normal presentation

In which situations forceps delivery is done?

  • Baby’s heartbeat is irregular causing fetal distress
  • Baby is coming out with head facing up (occiput posterior position)
  • Mother is pushing but labor is not progressing
  • Mother has a critical medical condition like aortic valve stenosis and can’t push for longer time

When should forceps delivery be avoided?

  • Baby has a bone disorder like osteogenesis imperfecta, or a bleeding disorder like haemophilia
  • Baby’s head is unable to pass through the midpoint of the birth canal
  • Doctor is unable to trace the baby’s head
  • Baby’s size is bigger than your pelvis
  • Baby is descending in breech position

What are the risks of forceps delivery?

When properly used, forceps delivery rarely causes any problems but there are few risks involved for both mother and baby.

Risks for the mother

  • Severe vaginal tears
  • Painful urination or bowel movement post-delivery
  • Anaemia
  • Weakening of the pelvic muscles
  • Injury to the bladder or uterine muscles

Risks for the baby

  • Marks or bruises on the head or face which will heal in few days
  • Swollen or cone-shaped head which will come to normal shape in 1-2 days.
  • Injury to the nerves due to forceps’ pressure.
  • Facial cut which may bleed
  • External eye trauma
  • Intrinsic bleeding in the baby’s head which is rare and serious

How to prepare for forceps delivery?

You will be given medication to stop the pain either as an epidural block or vaginal insertion. This will make you feel numbness in and around vagina. You’ll still feel the contractions.

Doctor will place forceps on the baby’s protruding head. As soon as the next contraction will come, you’ll be asked to push again. As you push, doctor will gently pull to guide the baby’s head out and you push rest of the baby’s out.

Post forceps delivery doctor will check both baby and the mother for any injuries or complications.

If forceps delivery doesn’t help, a c-section may be suggested.


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