Forceps deliveries can be unbearable for mothers considering the force used, risking a birth injury as well as maternal injuries. Forceps deliveries are assisted vaginal deliveries. Forceps are a medical instrument but are shaped like large spoons or salad tongs, and they help to guide a baby through the birth canal. For complicated labor, forceps deliveries are recommended, but they are potentially dangerous for pregnant women and babies, even riskier than C-sections considering the injuries that can happen. The Safe Birth Project offers this information to consider regarding the risks and injuries involved with a forceps delivery.
When and Why Are Forceps Deliveries Done?
Forceps deliveries are done when certain physical rigors prevent babies from being delivered easily. Doctors will defer to forceps deliveries if your cervix is fully dilated, your membranes have ruptured, or your baby has descended into the birth canal headfirst, but you can’t push it out. If your labor is prolonged, your baby has an irregular heartbeat, or you have a serious medical condition, forceps deliveries will come into play. This type of delivery is appropriate in a birthing center or hospital where a C-section can be done, if necessary.
During forceps deliveries, you will be given medication to numb pain, either through an epidural block or numbing medicine placed on the vagina. The forceps will be placed carefully on the baby’s head. You will then be asked to push again during a contraction. Once the doctor delivers the baby’s head, you will push the baby the rest of the way out.
Though the conditions mentioned above may necessitate that forceps deliveries be done, the risk and potential injuries you and your baby can suffer are many and range from minor to life-threatening.
The Risks Involved in Forceps Deliveries
Since forceps are used with some force to create an opening for delivery, the risk of injuries for mothers as well as a birth injury for the baby is high.
Vaginal births requiring forceps usage can have long-term side effects, with more studies suggesting that trauma and injuries resulting from forceps deliveries have been on the rise. The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) found that 26.5% of first-time mothers experienced obstetrical trauma from forceps deliveries in 2014, up from 19.5 just 10 years prior. Obstetrical trauma most often involves severe perineal tearing. With such injuries, the effects are not short-lived as they can lead to impaired bowel function and bladder control as well as pelvic organ prolapse.
A variety of other injuries can happen when enduring a forceps delivery. You can suffer injuries to the bladder or urethra. Other injuries such as genital tract tears and uterine ruptures are also possible. When the uterine wall is torn, that may allow the baby or placenta to be pushed into your abdominal cavity. You may also have short- or long-term urinary or fecal incontinence if a severe tear occurs. Other risks include weakening of the muscles and ligaments supporting your pelvic organs as well as pain post-delivery in the perineum – the tissue between the vagina and anus. Retinal hemorrhage and cephalhematoma are other risks to consider.
Babies can contract a birth injury or other types of injuries following forceps deliveries as well. Some babies have developed facial palsy, meaning they have temporary weakness in their facial muscles. Furthermore, babies delivered via forceps may suffer minor facial injuries due to the pressure applied by the forceps. These devices can affect the brachial plexus, impairing the nerves in the newborn’s upper body. Using birth-assistance tools like a forceps or vacuum could cause the brachial plexus to stretch more than it should, leading to a birth injury. A brachial plexus injury is a birth injury that’s unfortunately all too common, affecting the range of motion and reaction time in babies.
Minor external eye trauma, skull fracture, seizures, and bleeding within the skull are other potential injuries, though rare, that babies can suffer during forceps deliveries. Serious infant injuries following a forceps delivery are uncommon, but they exist and may give you pause. There have been cases where babies have had serious injuries such as brain damage, showing signs such as seizures and brain tissue death or necrosis. Permanent cognitive and motor deficits, intellectual and developmental disabilities, have also resulted from difficult births, causing babies to miss out on important milestones.
Forceps Injuries and Malpractice
Most forceps deliveries are done safely by experienced professional doctors, to the point that a subsequent C-section is not required. However, one in three malpractice litigations about fetal injuries or damage involved forceps procedures.
Many malpractice claims involve a negligent use of forceps as opposed to a failure to use them. When evaluating negligence, medical experts look at various factors including whether or not there was a deviation from the usual standard of care. If the mishandled delivery causes a birth injury or injuries for the mother that could have been prevented, you could stand to claim damages for your pain and suffering.
The Safe Birth Project provides you with legal case help to confront such malpractice if your child has suffered a birth injury due to improper forceps usage. Depending on the birth injury suffered, your child may end up with long-standing issues that could prevent him or her from having a normal childhood.
If your child has a brachial plexus injury or another birth injury type due to a forceps delivery, you must collect as much information about the care provided throughout the delivery. From there, speak to your attorney about legal options. These cases are complex as they have lower success rates compared to other personal injury cases. Gathering as much information available from the medical professional that handled your delivery or from the hospital itself is crucial to a successful claim. The Safe Birth Project can help you advance your case so you can recoup the damages you need to secure your future post-injuries.
Contact the Safe Birth Project to help with your birth injury lawsuit!