When are forceps used?
Forceps are used by obstetricians in an attempt to maneuver a child through the birth process if the child is experiencing one of many potential problems of movement or position confronted during labor and delivery. One of the following problems may result in the use of forceps:
- Breech presentations
- Shoulder dystocia
- Situations in which the child’s head will not pass easily through the birth canal prompt the use of forceps
At one time, forceps were very commonly used, but in many cases today physicians will avoid a difficult delivery, if it can be anticipated, by scheduling a Caesarean section. They are used because the benefits exceed the risks in the attending physician’s estimation. They can save lives.
Although we may all hope that our experience with childbirth is predictable and will end routinely with a joyful celebration of new life, difficulties in delivery cannot always be predicted, and forceps are sometimes used to deliver a healthy baby while avoiding any injury to the mother.
Conditions that might result in forceps use
Conditions that may sometimes necessitate the use of forceps include macrosomia, which is a large fetus, malpresentation, or failure to progress in labor. Some of these conditions should be anticipated with good prenatal care, in which case the obstetrician can decide if a Caesarean section delivery is safer for the mother and child. Malpresentation is also referred to as a breech presentation, which means the infant is not progressing with the head first through the birth canal. Failure to progress in labor indicates that the cervix is actively dilated but the contractions of the uterus are not adequate to push the infant through the birth canal.
Misuse of forceps results in maternal and fetal problems
It is unfortunate that some physicians do not use forceps properly in each case, whether it is because of a lack of ability or knowledge, or perhaps because of negligence. The results are often devastating to mother and child.
Maternal injuries after childbirth may occur at any time as a result of the significant stress of childbirth on the mother. Unfortunately, if forceps are required and if the physician miscalculates his use of forceps, it may result in long-term health problems for the mother.
Maternal problems as a result of forceps may include:
- Uterine rupture, which is life threatening, may occur as the result of improper positioning and use of forceps.
- Perineal injuries that may include prolapse of the pelvic organs may occur as a result of damage to ligaments or muscles.
- Injuries to the urethra or bladder may occur, causing infection or incontinence.
- Fecal incontinence in the mother may sometimes occur if the forceps are inappropriately placed.
- Blood loss and infection may result, and these conditions may be transient or can result in a series of unfortunate events that could even end in death.
Injuries to the infant from use of forceps often have tragic results. They include the following:
- Head injuries that have left infants functionally disabled for life occur as the result of poorly applied forceps used to aid in delivery of the head.
- Skull fractures can occur.
- Permanent brain damage
- Damage to the facial nerve. This can leave the child with a facial palsy.
- Avulsion injuries, which leave the infant with a paralysis of the extremity, may occur when a physician attempts to use forceps to deliver an infant with shoulder dystocia, which is entrapment of a shoulder on the mother’s public bone.
These injuries may require years of medical or surgical treatment.
If you or your child have experienced an injury from the improper use of forceps during delivery, you may require medical assistance into the indefinite future. In some cases, the physician and medical institution may be responsible, and you may be entitled to compensation. You may simply want to discuss the events of the delivery with a trained and objective legal professional. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys may be able to assist you understanding the unfortunate sequence of events that led to injury. Call Passen & Powell at 312-527-4500 with any questions.