The Risks of Using Forceps During Childbirth

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the use of forceps during childbirth has steadily declined in U.S. hospitals and worldwide over the short term; dropping from .61 percent use in all births during 2012 to .59 percent use in 2013. Ideally, the use of forceps is meant to effectuate delivery and alleviate some of the difficulties which may be encountered during the birthing process.  Sometimes, however, the use of this tool, in what is termed an “operative delivery,” is contraindicated or the forceps are used inappropriately. The risks inherent in the use of forceps often outweigh the potential benefits.

Forceps are essentially a pair of “tongs” that are used to assist the delivering healthcare provider (obstetrician, midwife, etc.) in extracting the newborn, usually in conjunction with the mother’s contractions/expulsive efforts (pushing).  They should only be used only under certain circumstances including when:

  • The mother’s water has broken.
  • The mother is fully dilated.
  • The baby is far enough down the birth canal and his/her head is in a specific position.
  • The medical professional is trained to use forceps
  • The mother has been informed about the risks and benefits of the forceps use, and agrees to their utilization.

In the absence of proper training and/or if inappropriately or unnecessarily used, forceps can cause considerable harm to the newborn and mother.  Cranial or head injuries to the newborn by virtue of inappropriate forceps use  may result in brain damage,  intracranial hemorrhaging (bleeding in the brain), bleeding beneath the uppermost layers of soft tissue of the head (causing “hematoma” or a blood collection under the “skin”, skull fractures, facial lacerations and damage to craniofacial nerves (resulting in facial palsies). The mother can also suffer injuries to the vaginal vault and pelvic outlet, which may cause bleeding, subsequent buildup of inordinate amounts of scar tissue, chronic pain, and may require surgical intervention in attempts to remedy.

If you believe that you or your newborn suffered injuries as a result of the negligent use of forceps, you may be entitled to seek monetary compensation for your injuries and their associated damages including the costs of treatment.  To discuss your potential medical malpractice claim with an experienced birth injury lawyer, contact Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari. Call (973) 635-5400 for a no-cost case evaluation.

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