The process of labor and birth don’t always progress as anticipated. Under certain circumstances, your baby needs some external assistance to help them with the birth. In case of a vaginal birth, there are two kinds of assisted deliveries—forceps-assisted delivery and vacuum-assisted delivery.
The lesser popular one is forceps birth where the obstetrician uses forceps to deliver the baby. Birth is a natural process and doesn’t need external intervention unless absolutely necessary. For your own knowledge and in case the need arises, it is important to know about forceps birth and the related benefits and risks.
When Is Forceps-Assisted Birth Required?
Due to certain reasons, during the pushing stage of the labor, the baby’s movement through the birth canal may slow down and they might become distressed.
Your obstetrician may recommend an assisted birth when—the baby is in distress and unable to progress, the mother is exhausted and cannot push any longer, the baby is in an unfavorable position for birth, or the mother is unable to push due to medical issues like increase in blood pressure or heart problems.
Before using forceps for delivery, your obstetrician might attempt a ventouse or vacuum-assisted delivery as there are fewer risks of tearing and bruising in the process. If this method doesn’t work out, they will attempt a forceps-assisted delivery before going for a c-section.
Before the procedure, the mother will receive an anesthesia or an epidural. The anesthesia is given as an injection into the nerve of the vaginal wall—this numbs the area making it insensitive to any pain. Administering an anesthesia is faster as compared to giving an epidural and preferred in case the baby needs to be pulled out as soon as possible.
What Happens During Forceps-Assisted Birth?
Forceps, which are long metal tongs resembling salad tongs, are inserted, one at a time and locked around the baby’s head. The obstetrician then asks you to push during the next contraction and slowly pulls the baby out. In case you aren’t feeling the contractions, the nurse will guide you to push.
As the crowning happens or a good portion of baby’s head becomes visible, the doctor will make a cut at the edge of the vagina or perineum to widen the opening of the vagina. This is called episiotomy and helps your baby to pass through. They could also do it at the beginning before inserting the forceps.
You won’t experience any pain due to the anesthesia. The procedure is done with precision without causing any permanent damage to the tissue and you will receive stitches after the birth.
In case, it isn’t successful in three attempts, an emergency c-section is performed.
Risks Involved In the Procedure
There are certain risks associated with the method due to which more doctors and mothers are preferring vacuum-assisted birth over the procedure.
The forceps, due to the kind of medical instrument they are, may cause harm to your pelvic floor muscles, leading to urine or bowel incontinence in some cases. The damage could also happen due to prolonged labor or a bigger baby. Apart from the increased chances of episiotomy, mothers often receive bruises and injuries during the procedure. Sometimes, even babies get bruise marks on their head and face—though they disappear within a weak.
The bruises and tearing prolong the recovery period for the mother.
How Can Avoid Forceps Birth Be Avoided?
Forceps-assisted deliveries aren’t common, women don’t need them for birth. To avoid any kind of intervention during your delivery, it is necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Gain your pregnancy weight slowly and in moderation. Eat right and practice regular exercising.
During labor, try to be in an upright position—it will help your baby descend. Avoid an epidural as it can restrict movement and increase the likeliness of assisted labor—if you had one, wait for some time after you are dilated up to 10 centimeters before pushing. Choose a comfortable birthplace and hire a doula to support you during labor.
In some cases, assisted birth is the need of the hour and could save your baby’s life. Though you might want to strike it from your birth plan and wish to avoid it, be prepared and well-informed about the procedure.