How a Forceps Delivery Can Injure Your Baby

Gabriel A. Assaad
Partner Gabriel Assaad represents victims of negligence and medical malpractice nationwide.

Childbirth is usually a special and wonderful event for those parents whose delivery experience is an easy one and birth is unassisted. However, difficult labor can sometimes require an assisted delivery that may be traumatic due to the risk of birth injuries.

What Is a Birth Injury?

A birth injury happens during the birth process usually due to complications during labor. If a baby is delivered too late or too soon, requires assistance with a vacuum or forceps, or is breech, extreme pressure can be placed on the baby while moving through the birth canal. This pressure can cause the baby trauma. Potential birth injuries during assisted births can include the following:

  • Bruising of the infant’s head
  • Bleeding on the brain
  • Facial nerve injury
  • Broken collarbone

Some birth injuries such as swelling, bruising, scars from forceps use, and even a fracture that occurs sometimes during a breech birth are not usually serious and are likely to heal on their own within a few weeks.

Assisted Delivery and Forceps Delivery

Because the birthing process is unpredictable, medical professionals closely monitor both mother and child. During the monitoring, if medical professionals detect fetal distress, they often change their plans for the birthing process and may opt instead for an assisted delivery. This may happen if labor is not progressing as quickly as doctors would like or in the way they want. In those cases, doctors may find it necessary to help the baby move through the birth canal, sometimes with the use of obstetrical forceps.

Obstetrical forceps have two blades that are designed to fit around the baby’s head. These blades are attached to handles by parallel or crossing shanks, and some say forceps closely resemble large salad tongs. 

When these forceps are positioned appropriately around the baby’s head, gentle pressure is applied to pull the baby through the birth canal. In most cases, once the baby’s head is through the birth canal, sometimes both head and shoulders, doctors allow the mother to push to complete the birth process.

Risk of Birth Injury During Forceps Delivery

When a doctor chooses to use obstetrical forceps to assist in delivery, there is an increased chance that your baby could be injured in the following ways: 

  • Facial injuries. Because forceps are designed to fit around an infant’s head, the injuries that an infant may suffer are typically found around the head. These could include scratches, cuts, or bruises on the face.
  • Misshapen head. A forceps delivery puts pressure on the baby’s head and can result in the child having a cone-shaped head for a short time after birth.
  • Bleeding under the cranial bones. This condition is known as cephalohematoma. Typically, the blood that gathers under the bones is reabsorbed into the baby’s body, but the resulting bump on baby’s head could take weeks or months to disappear.
  • Brain damage and seizures. With any birth, there is potential for an infant to suffer brain damage because the birthing process is so unpredictable. If a child is deprived of air, too much pressure is placed on the baby’s head, or the baby’s head is turned in the wrong direction, the risk for brain damage and potential seizures increases.

Alternatives to a Forceps Delivery

When a doctor determines that an assisted delivery is necessary, forceps delivery is not the only option. Another type of assisted delivery is a ventouse or vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery. A doctor attaches a cup to the top of the infant’s head, and the cup is attached to a vacuum pump, which is used to help bring the baby through the birth canal. This typically occurs during the second stage of labor. If these methods are not successful or parents are not comfortable with these options, a cesarean section (C-section) is a third option.

If you believe your child has suffered a birth injury following a forceps delivery and wish to pursue a case for birth injury, we are here to help.  Call Kennedy Hodges LLP today at 855-947-0707 to discuss your situation.