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The Potential Dangers of a Forceps Delivery

In some cases when a woman is giving birth, forceps are used to help get the baby out of the birth canal. Forceps are often used by doctors if:

  • The baby has reached the birth canal head-first, but the mother is unable to push him or her out.
  • The baby is facing upward instead of downward.
  • Labor isn't progressing as it should (if the mother is pushing without any progress).
  • The mother has a health issue that makes it dangerous to continue to push.
  • There's a concern about the baby's heartbeat.

Forceps are basically a large set of tongs applied to the baby's head to help get him or her out of the birth canal, usually during a contraction. While many forceps deliveries go just fine, there is a risk of injury, both to the mother and the baby. These deliveries should only be attempted in a facility where a C-section can be performed if the forceps don't work or if a forceps delivery is considered an unsafe alternative. A qualified health care provider should be able to determine whether it's not a wise idea to use forceps.

A forceps delivery can present problems for the mother after the birth. These include ruptures, tears and weakening of muscles and other parts of the body that can present short or long-term problems as well as infections.

It's not uncommon to see marks on a baby's face after he or she has been delivered using forceps. These are usually only temporary. In some cases, there may also be temporary facial muscle weakness. This is called facial palsy.

More serious injuries to the baby are rare, but they can occur. These can include skull fractures or bleeding inside the skull and seizures.

If your baby was injured during a forceps delivery and the injury is not healing, it may be wise to seek legal advice to determine what your options are. You may be able to seek compensation that can help with your child's recovery as well as other damages associated with the injury.

Source: Mayo Cllinic, "Forceps Delivery," accessed Jan. 06, 2016

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