Intervention & Prevention: Birth Trauma Linked to Midpelvic Forcep and Vacuum Deliveries
For many mothers, their labor process might begin normally, but they encounter problems later on as labor progresses. Sometimes, labor stalls and the baby stops making progress on its own, or the mother becomes so exhausted that she’s no longer able to push on her own. In other cases, labor can become more complicated due to health reasons. The baby’s heart rate could change or the mother could have health issues that would be aggravated by spending too much time pushing. In either case, a doctor might decide it’s best to deliver the baby as soon as possible.
When these sorts of situations arise, doctors will often use birth-assisting tools like forceps and vacuums to help get the baby out, or deliver the baby by Caesarean section. These are known as midpelvic forcep deliveries, midpelvic vacuum deliveries, or midpelvic C-sections. While Caesarean section deliveries will always have a risk of complications, a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has found a higher rate of birth trauma in midpelvic forcep and vacuum deliveries.
Every year, about 10,000 infants in Canada are born with midpelvic vacuum or forcep deliveries and in many cases, doctors are likely to opt for birth-assisting tools over a C-section because it can be a faster way to get to the baby if there are signs of distress. However, this new study shows that midpelvic use of forceps and vacuums when there aren’t signs of distress can the put child at an increased risk of physical trauma. According to the study, infants born this way were five to ten times more likely to experience various types of birth trauma and injuries, such as liver damage, brain bleeds, cerebral palsy, or Erb’s palsy.
Infants aren’t the only ones at risk of being impacted by physical birth trauma, mothers can also experience it. The study found that mothers who had been through these types of delivery methods showed a higher rate of postpartum hemorrhage and a higher rate of lacerations and injuries to pelvic organs and joints when compared to mothers who had midpelvic C-section deliveries instead.
Many mothers who have been through midpelvic forcep or vacuum deliveries can also experience severe tearing during delivery. 19% of mothers who had a midpelvic forcep delivery have experienced third or fourth-degree tearing while 12% of mothers who had midpelvic vacuum deliveries had that degree of tearing. When tearing is that severe, it can cause long-term problems such as pelvic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence, and sexual health issues.
If you are expecting a baby, it’s very important to talk to your doctor about what measures they would take if labor becomes difficult. C-section deliveries and deliveries with birth-assisting tools both come with their own set of risks and possible complications, so it’s important that you be aware of what each method involves. If you’ve recently been through a midpelvic forcep or vacuum delivery and either you or your child has been suffering from injuries or complications, contact a birth trauma lawyer as soon as possible.