For decades, doctors have used forceps to assist them during challenging deliveries. A forceps delivery will typically be considered if the physician is having a difficult time reaching the baby’s head or the mother is exhausted and cannot effectively push the baby out. However, a number of conditions must exist in order for forceps to be safely used, including the cervix being fully dilated, the baby’s head is fully engaged in the pelvis, and the second stage of labor has commenced.
While a common practice and safe when properly done, forceps deliveries have the potential to and do on occasion cause serious and permanent injuries to both the mother and the child, including brain damage.
Some of the more common injuries to the child arising from the use of forceps during delivery include:
- Minor facial injuries due to the pressure of the forceps
- Temporary weakness in the facial muscles (facial palsy)
- Minor external eye trauma
- Skull fracture
- Cephalohematoma (bleeding within the skull)
While many of these issues are minor and resolve themselves on their own, misuse of forceps has been responsible for devastating and unnecessary brain injuries from which a child never fully recovers. Brain damage from cerebral bleeds, contusions, stretching and tearing of blood vessels and brain tissue can occur. These traumas can lead to brachial plexus injuries, spinal cord injuries, ongoing seizure disorders, strokes, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, and intellectual and developmental problems later in life.
The use of forceps during a delivery requires experience and training, and the decision to use them is one that must be made with caution and care. A medical provider may commit medical malpractice by choosing to using forceps when conditions are not appropriate or by using forceps improperly. If you have concerns about whether injuries to your child may have occurred during a forceps-assisted delivery, you should consult with an experienced birth injuries attorney to discuss your situation.
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This article has been prepared by Hovde Dassow + Deets for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.