During a vaginal delivery, if the labor isn’t progressing or the child’s safety depends on immediate delivery, a doctor may have used forceps to speed things along. Forceps are a surgical instrument that is shaped a bit like salad tongs or spoons. The doctor inserts the forceps into the vagina, grasps the child’s head, and uses the forceps to guide the child out while the mother also pushes.

According to the Mayo Clinic, forceps should only ever be used at a hospital or birthing center that is equipped to handle C-sections.

The main situations where forceps might be used during delivery include:

  • Lack of progression of labor even after your water has broken, your cervix is fully dilated, and the baby has moved into the birth canal
  • There have been changes in the baby’s heartbeat that indicate a need for immediate delivery
  • You have certain health conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease, that require limits on the amount of pushing you can do

There are situations where a forceps delivery is not recommended, including:

  • When a baby has a bone or bleeding disorder
  • When the baby is less than halfway through the birth canal
  • When the baby’s head position is unknown
  • When the baby’s arms or shoulders are leading the way
  • When a baby is too large for the mother’s pelvis

There are serious potential side effects from forceps deliveries

While most doctors and healthcare providers are careful to use forceps only in the appropriate situations, there are risks to the procedure. Several maternal impacts that are possible during any vaginal delivery are more common when forceps were used:

  • Perineal pain
  • Tears in the lower genital tract
  • Trouble urinating
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence, which can be long-term
  • Bladder and urethra injuries
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Rupture of the uterus

And, while injury to the baby is rare and may have been unavoidable, there are several possible types of injuries:

  • Minor facial or eye injuries
  • Temporary facial palsy
  • Bleeding inside the skull
  • Skull fracture
  • Seizures

If you suspect your child was injured due to malpractice, get help

Unfortunately, there are some situations where medical malpractice plays a role in injuries from a forceps delivery. This can be when a forceps delivery is not appropriate, when the risks outweigh the benefits, and when the procedure is performed incorrectly.

If your child suffered a serious injury from forceps during delivery, you may be concerned that the doctors and nurses could have prevented those injuries. A good place to start your inquiry is with an experienced medical malpractice attorney, who may be able to tell you if what you experienced is normal or indicative of medical malpractice.