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The dangers of forceps delivery during the birthing process

Every obstetrician would prefer to see his or her patient give a natural birth as long as the natural birth happens safely. However, in some cases, the baby could become tangled up or trapped in the birth canal.

A trapped baby and a delayed birth could endanger both the mother and child, and if a doctor becomes concerned, he or she might use forceps to assist the delivery. Although necessary in many cases, the use of forceps comes with risks and dangers. As such, it's vital that doctors only use them when no other safe delivery options are available.

What are forceps and when do obstetricians need to use them?

Forceps used to assist birthing look kind of like a large set of salad tongs. They are spoon-like medical implements designed to fit the baby's head and help guide the baby through the birth canal. Doctors try to time the pulling pressure they apply with the contractions of the mother, as she pushes. However, because the baby could be injured while using forceps, doctors limit their use to emergency situations when the safety of the mother or child depends on getting the baby out quickly.

There are plenty of valid reasons for forceps to be recommended. These include the following situations:

  • When the mother keeps pushing but the labor won't progress.
  • When the baby's heartbeat shows a problem indicating the need for an immediate delivery.
  • When the mother develops a serious medical concern during delivery.
  • When the baby is emerging from the birth canal in the wrong direction.

Because an emergency C-section is needed in the case of a failed attempt at using forceps, obstetricians should only consider using them in a facility where the mother can receive an emergency C-section.

When doctors inappropriately use forceps resulting in an injury

It's not uncommon for doctors to use forceps improperly or to recommend their use when the situation doesn't require it. This might be considered negligence, and if that negligence causes a serious injury to the baby or the mother, the doctor could be financially liable. If you or your baby were hurt due to forceps birth trauma, investigate the circumstances that led to the injury and fully evaluate your legal options.

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