Forceps and Vacuum Extractors

The use of forceps and vacuum extractors during birth can carry many risk factors, such as brain or nerve damage. This can result in lifelong complications, including cerebral palsy.

Birth-Assisting Tools Explained

Cerebral palsy is the result of brain damage that occurs during pregnancy, labor or birth. In a growing number of cases, CP was caused by medical tools that were used improperly during delivery.

A study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that nearly 10 percent of all cases of cerebral palsy were caused by a problem during delivery.

During a typical childbirth, an infant will naturally descend into the mother’s birth canal using pushing only. If a doctor detects that an infant is struggling to exit the womb on their own, they may opt to use various medical tools to assist the process. When used appropriately, these tools can be beneficial in a stressful delivery.

However, if doctors use these instruments improperly or prematurely during birth, this can result in lifelong complications, including various types of cerebral palsy.

Parents of children diagnosed with a preventable birth injury are entitled to financial and legal compensation to help with the overwhelming cost of treatment.

Types of Birth-Assisting Tools

Birth-assisting tools come in two basic types, and both come with their own set of risks to the mother and child. The two main forms of birthing tools used in a difficult delivery are:

  • Forceps – A metal instrument resembling a large set of tongs. The caretaker uses forceps to guide an infant’s head through the birth canal during each contraction.
  • Vacuum extractors – A large vacuum with soft cup suctions on the end. The caretaker places soft cups on the infant’s head and uses the subtle suction from the vacuum to adjust the infant’s position in the womb.

Forceps Risk Factors

The most common use of forceps is when the mother is unable to successfully push the baby out of the womb on their own. Forceps can help guide an infant’s head down the birth canal if the mother is experiencing exhaustion, illness, infection or hemorrhage. However, the risks that forceps carry are reason for concern.

Risk factors include:

  • Brain or nerve damage
  • Skull fractures
  • Bruising and swelling of the head
  • Tears or lacerations in the lower genital tract of the mother
  • Seizures
  • Bladder and urethra injuries in the mother

Vacuum Extractor Risk Factors

When facing a difficult or prolonged vaginal delivery, caretakers may use vacuum extractor tools to help move along the birthing process. When this tool is used incorrectly or carelessly, it can lead to a number of health risks for both the mother and child.

Risk factors include:

  • Skull fractures
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Fetal stroke
  • Retinal hemorrhages

Signs Of Improper Use Of Delivery Instruments

Parents of children with CP may suspect that their child’s condition is a result of forceps or a vacuum extractor used at birth. There are various symptoms that indicate the improper use of these birth-assisting tools. Most signs of injury appear at birth, or in the following weeks.

Symptoms of a birth injury due to assistive tools include:

  • Lacerations
  • Bruising
  • Infant’s head is misshapen
  • Nerve damage
  • Skull fractures
  • Hemorrhages
  • Weakness or full paralysis on one side
  • Seizures

How Do Birth-Assisting Tools Lead To Cerebral Palsy?

The negligent use of birth-assisting instruments, such as forceps and vacuum extractors, can cause irreversible injury to an infant.

Forceps and vacuum extractors are applied directly to a child’s head during delivery. Any improper use of these tools can cause serious brain injuries that often result in a diagnosis of cerebral palsy.

When birth-assisting tools are applied with too much pressure or placed incorrectly on a child’s head, this can result in lifelong damage to the skull, brain, nerves and face muscles.

Also, if delivery instruments are used too early in the birthing process as a way to rush the delivery, this can cause brain and nerve damage as well.

Getting Compensated For A Preventable Condition

While doctors may have technical limitations in predicting aspects such as the actual size of an infant, they are expected to be prepared to deal with an array of emergencies that can arise during birth.

Parents of children with CP who feel that their child’s condition is a result of the improper use of a birthing-assistive tool are entitled to legal and financial compensation. The cost of caring for a child with cerebral palsy as they transition into adulthood is over $1 million, in addition to the normal cost of living.

If a child has exhibited symptoms of a preventable birth injury due to the use of assistive-birthing tools, parents are able to seek compensation through a lawsuit. This compensation will help curb the overwhelming cost of caring for a child with CP.

Start your free case review today with one our experienced attorneys, who can help guide you through the legal process.

Birth Injury Support Team

Cerebral Palsy Guide was founded upon the goal of educating families about cerebral palsy, raising awareness, and providing support for children, parents, and caregivers affected by the condition. Our easy-to-use website offers simple, straightforward information that provides families with medical and legal solutions. We are devoted to helping parents and children access the tools they need to live a life full of happiness

View Sources
  1. Healthline. (2016). Forceps vs. Vacuum. Retrieved on April 8, 2016, from:
  2. Michigan Cerebral Palsy Attorneys. (2016). How Vacuum Extractors and Forceps Can Cause Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved on April 8, 2016, from:
  3. Birth Injury Guide. (2016). Forceps Delivery Injury. Retrieved on April 8, 2016, from:
  4. (2015). Delivery Issues that cause Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved on April 8, 2016, from:
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