Forceps Delivery: What Mums-to-Be Should Know About the Procedure and Risks

One mum is seeking to raise awareness about the risks of forceps of delivery to so that other mums won't have to go through the same ordeal she did...

Though mums-to-be and doctors prepare for birth as much as they can, sometimes they have no choice but to improvise when things don’t go as planned in the delivery room. A forceps delivery procedure, for instance, is needed if the baby is having trouble coming out of the birth canal.

Trained medical professionals may opt for a forceps delivery when faced with certain dangers during delivery, like an abnormal foetal heart rate or if you have high blood pressure or a heart condition. However, in some cases, it can cause injuries to both you and your baby. 

Mum Seeks to Highlight the Dangers of Forceps Delivery Procedure

Amy Dawes, 37, from Sydney, Australia shares how a forceps delivery procedure injured her for life. When she was in labour with her first child, the mum recalls having difficulty pushing.

“I wanted my baby to have the best start of life and I really believed a vaginal birth would be the way to do that,” she told Yahoo News.

But when she delivered her baby girl Eliya via a forceps delivery, she suffered severe bleeding and third-degree tears.

“I didn’t realise the extent of the injuries,” Dawes continues.

She confides how at 16 months postpartum, she suffered a severe prolapse. This injury tore her pelvic floor muscle from the bone, leaving little to no support for her bladder and uterus. 

forceps delivery procedure

Doctors told her she couldn’t lift her own baby. | Image source: Amy Dawes Facebook page

It’s been five years, but the lifelong injuries changed her life. She was told to avoid lifting her baby or playing sports, which she says is a “massive part” of her life.

“I felt old before my time,” laments Dawes, adding how her basic way of life has been altered. She couldn’t even run after her own child, which was simply devastating.

The dangers of forceps delivery procedure

Forceps Delivery: What Mums-to-Be Should Know About the Procedure and Risks

Image source: iStock

Now a mum of two, Dawes recalls how she was forced to choose between a forceps delivery procedure or a caesarean section. She chose the former, knowing only of the risks involved in a c-section.

Dawes recalls how no one educated her about the dangers in forceps-assisted deliveries. 

Had she known about the risks, she believes she would have been more “open-minded” about getting a caesarean. 

In an effort to raise awareness of the risks of forceps delivery procedure, Dawes co-founded the Australasian Birth Trauma Association support group. She also urges Australian hospitals to consider banning the use of forceps during delivery. 

forceps during delivery

Mums-to-be should know about the risks of the use of forceps during delivery. | Image source: Spanish News Twitter

Here are some risks of forceps delivery that mums-to-be should be aware of. 

Risks for mum:

  • Severe vaginal tears that will take time to heal. In some cases, these injuries could warrant surgery. 
  • Urination and bowel movement problems after delivery.

Risks for baby:

  • Bruises, scrapes, and bumps on the baby’s head or face. These may take weeks to heal.
  • Swollen or misshapen (cone-like) head upon delivery. This usually resolves in a day or two.
  • Nerve injury due to forceps’ pressure, which can cause temporary drooping of the face. 
  • Cuts and bleeding because of the forceps can happen, though the incidence is rare.
  • Internal injuries may also occur (very rare).

Though these risks are rare, they are important to discuss with your doctor. The important thing to focus on is to educate yourself so you can make the best decision for your precious baby, and you. 

What Is Forceps Delivery?

Forceps delivery is a form of assisted vaginal delivery. Lots of women can do vaginal delivery spontaneously. But some opt to deliver their babies via vaginal delivery but struggle in doing it spontaneously. In that case, a woman may choose to have what we call assisted vaginal delivery.

There are different forms of assisted vaginal delivery. One is through the use of a vacuum, and the other is through the use of forceps.

A forceps is a medical tool that looks like a giant tong or two large spoons. It is used by the doctor to grasp the head of the baby, and then gently guide the baby out of the birth canal.

When to Use Forceps in Delivery?

Forceps are used in delivery when the baby is not going down the birth canal as expected. What is forceps-assisted delivery?

Aside from that, forceps are also used when the baby has a certain medical condition that requires the doctor to take the baby out of the womb more quickly.

Additionally, forceps are used when the mother has a condition wherein she cannot push or was advised not to push during delivery. When to use forceps in delivery? Your doctor may advise you to undergo forceps delivery depending on the situation during your childbirth.

Types of Forceps Used in the Delivery

There are different types of forceps used in assisted delivery. There are actually hundreds of types of it. To name a few, here are some of the most common types of forceps used in assisted delivery.

Wrigley’s forceps

This type of forceps is used when the baby is too far from the birth canal. It is also used during caesarean delivery. It has short stems and blades. This kind of forceps can minimise the risk of uterine rupture, a serious complication that can happen during childbirth.

Elliot forceps

If your baby’s head is round, Elliot forceps will be used to guide your baby through the birth canal. This type of forceps has a rounded cephalic curve.

Piper’s forceps

Forceps with downward-curving stems. This type of forceps is used to grasp the head of the baby during a breech delivery. Breech delivery is when your baby is positioned feet or bottom first in the uterus. The stems of Piper’s forceps fit them around the underside of the baby’s body.

Simpson forceps

If your baby’s head is squeezed into a cone-like shape by the mother’s birth canal, then Simpson forceps are used to help deliver the baby. This type of forceps has an elongated cephalic curve.

Kielland forceps

The most common type of forceps used when the baby needs to be rotated is the Kielland forceps. It has a sliding lock and a shallow cephalic curve.

Forceps Delivery Complications

Aside from what is stated above about the dangers of forceps delivery, mothers have the risk of experiencing the following complications of forceps delivery:

  • Loss of bladder control
  • Anaemia
  • Weakness of pelvic-supporting ligaments and muscles
  • Pelvic prolapse
  • Bladder or urethral injuries
  • Wounds in the lower genital tract


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How to Avoid Having a Forceps Delivery?

Pregnancy and giving birth are full of uncertainties. That is why it is hard to know what will happen during your delivery. The key to avoiding complications during childbirth is to maintain a healthy pregnancy.

How to maintain a healthy pregnancy to avoid forceps delivery? Here are some of the ways that you can try to prevent complications during delivery:

  • Exercise regularly, upon the advice of your doctor.
  • Follow your doctors’ recommended weight and healthy eating habits.
  • Attend childbirth class
Attending a childbirth class can prepare you for giving birth. It may not ease all the uncertainties, but preparation can help you become calmer and more relaxed during delivery.
By following your doctor’s recommendation and attending regular check-ups during pregnancy, you lower the risk of complications in labour and delivery.

Forceps delivery is not considered safe if:

  • The arms of the baby are led through the birth canal.
  • The size of the baby seems too big for the birth canal. Your doctor may recommend you to have a cesarean delivery in that case.
  • Your baby’s position is not determined.
  • If the baby is premature for more than six weeks
  • The baby has a bone disorder.
  • Mother is not fully dilated.
Take note that forceps delivery is considered unsafe when you and your baby are experiencing these conditions during delivery. Your doctor may recommend other assisted vaginal delivery options or caesarean delivery.
Make sure that your doctors are trained about the risks of forceps delivery. Not all doctors know how to properly use forceps in delivery.
Some injuries that are caused by forceps delivery complications have long-term effects and require long-term medical treatment. To avoid the long-term effects of forceps delivery, make sure that your doctor is trained to know the risk of that type of assisted delivery, and how to properly use forceps.
Improper use of forceps in delivery is considered medical malpractice. You can file legal action if your child experienced serious long-term injuries as an effect of improper forceps delivery procedure.
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