In a parent’s life, there is no happier moment than the birth of your baby. However, an emergency can turn those moments into a scary experience. There are many reasons for issues during delivery. When the labor isn’t progressing, or the baby’s life is in danger, then the doctors will reach for the forceps to help deliver the baby. For the baby and mother, forceps can be a lifesaving method, but it can also put them at risk for severe injuries and lifelong health issues. In some rare cases, delivery by forceps can cause damaging nerve and brain injuries.
These life-changing forceps deliveries can prompt the parents to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital or the doctor, especially for those who suspect a case of wrongdoing or negligence. With these lawsuits, the families may recoup their damages for medical bills and lost wages. The lawsuit can also hold those responsible parties accountable for the pain and suffering that was caused due to negligence.
If your child was born with birth injuries due to the use of forceps, then contact the Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorneys at Raynes & Lawn immediately. You will learn about your legal options for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.
Why Are Forceps Used?
Ideally, the baby should come into the world by the mother pushing him or her through the birth canal. In some cases, the baby does not arrive in this way, and they need assistance in the delivery process. Your doctor may use forceps to help deliver your baby safely. These cases are known as assisted delivery.
Forceps are a metal instrument that is used to guide the baby through the birth canal and used during a difficult delivery. The forceps are used in time with the contractions to pull the baby out of the birth canal. These instruments cradle the baby’s head by using traction to bring them out. Forceps have the shape of large spoons, and they can be unnerving for some mothers. However, with proper care, the doctor will use the forceps without any issues.
For a mother in the second stage of delivery, the doctor might recommend the use of forceps. This action only occurs when the second stage of delivery is prolonged and at risk of harming the child. At this stage, there is an increased risk of injury or other complications to the mother and child.
Along with the use of forceps, there are several risks, including some that can be severe and life-threatening. These risks can include brain damage and skull fractures. Forceps are not always successful in pulling out the child. In these cases, the doctors will have to perform an emergency cesarean delivery.
When Are Forceps Used?
If the delivery has met specific criteria, then the doctor may decide to use forceps to deliver the baby. These requirements for a forceps delivery include a ruptured membrane, breeched birth, or dilated cervix. When these criteria are met, and the mother cannot push the baby on her own, then the doctor will use these instruments to help in the delivery. Some other reasons for the use of forceps include:
- The mother is pushing, but the labor is not progressing.
- There is a change in the baby’s heart rate.
- The baby is low in the birth canal.
- The mother has a specific health issue, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
For the most part, doctors only use forceps if the hospital or birthing center can conduct a cesarean section. If a forceps delivery is unsuccessful, then a C-section will be performed to prevent any harm to the baby.
Types of Forceps
There are more than 700 types of obstetric forceps that can assist with vaginal delivery. Some of the instruments are used for certain childbirth situations, and hospitals will keep various models on hand for these special situations. While all forceps have a similar design, every type is made for specific circumstances.
For the most part, all forceps have two prongs that are used to grasp the baby’s head. The prongs are called blades, and some blades will feature different sizes of curves. The right blade is also called the cephalic curve, and it is deeper than the left blade (pelvic curve). The cephalic curve is designed to fit around the baby’s head with the pelvic curve fitting against the mother’s birth canal. Some forceps have a more elongated curve, and others have a rounder cephalic curve. A doctor will use specific forceps depending on the shape of the baby’s head. In any case, the forceps are designed to grip the baby’s head firmly but not tightly.
At the midway point of the forceps is called articulation. Many of the forceps have a lock at this point. However, sliding forceps have two blades that slide along each other. Once again, the type of forceps always depends on the position of the baby in the birth canal. If the baby’s head is facing down, then fixed lock forceps are needed for the delivery. For babies who need to be rotated by the head, sliding forceps may be required. Every forceps include a handle that is connected to the blades by a stem. These longer stems will allow the doctor to rotate the baby.
There are many different types of forceps. The most common examples include the following:
- Elliot forceps are used when the baby’s head is round, and it features a more rounded cephalic curve.
- Simpson forceps have an elongated cephalic curve, and they are used when the child’s head is squeezed in the birth canal.
- Wrigley’s forceps are used in deliveries where the baby is further down the birth canal. They have short blades and stems that minimize the risk of uterine rupture.
- Piper’s forceps allow the doctor to grasp the head in the case of a breech delivery. These forceps have a downward curving stem that can fit around the baby’s body.
- Kielland forceps are the most commonly used forceps, and they are used when the baby needs to be rotated. These forceps have a sliding lock and shallow pelvic curve.
Can a Forceps Delivery Cause Problems?
There are certain risks to both the mother and baby when forceps are used. While severe injuries are rare, they can cause life-changing damages that will need extensive and ongoing medical care.
Mothers can have an increased risk of injuries, including:
- Lower genital tract tears
- Pain in the perineum
- Short or long-term fecal or urinary incontinence
- Injuries to the bladder or urethra
- Uterine rupture
- Weakening of the muscles and ligaments in the pelvic organs
For babies delivered with forceps, they also have an increased risk of specific birth injuries, including:
- Skull fractures
- Minor external eye trauma
- Minor facial injuries
- Nerve injuries
- Facial palsy
- Bleeding within the skull
Risk of Serious Birth Injury Due to Forceps Delivery
With a forceps delivery, there is a chance of severe birth injuries. One of the most common injuries is due to infant shoulder dystocia. This injury happens during the birthing process as the baby’s shoulders are stuck in the mother’s pelvic region. The child’s head is usually out of the birth canal, and the delivery must be completed as soon as possible. If the staff fails to resolve the birthing position, then the baby could end up with severe injuries. With these cases, the medical team will use forceps to deliver the baby. However, there are risks with this procedure. As the doctor uses the forceps, the baby can experience broken bones, facial injuries, and brachial plexus palsy. It can be a difficult decision for the doctor to use forceps, but time is critical to prevent any serious issues for the baby.
Nerve damage is another possible risk of forceps delivery. These injuries can occur when the pressure of the forceps causes a loss of movement in the face. The baby’s face may appear to droop or become weak. For many cases, this happens on just one side of the face. In rare instances, nerve damage occurs on both sides of the face. It is estimated that 8.8 cases per 1,000 births have facial nerve palsy. As the doctor places forceps around the baby’s head, the pressure can cause the nerves to be damaged in the process.
For a forceps delivery, nerve damage is the most reported type of injury. In many cases, the nerve damage often resolves itself within a few weeks to months without the need for any additional medical treatments. In 90 percent of these cases, the injuries do heal on their own as the facial muscles will go back to normal. While many of these cases resolve themselves, there is still a risk for severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries. These injuries can put your baby at risk for developing more severe issues, such as cerebral palsy.
Can Using Forceps During Delivery Cause Brain Damage?
While using forceps is considered a safe procedure, forceps can cause brain damage during delivery. One of the most common and severe injuries is cerebral palsy. This disorder can affect the movement, balance, and muscle tone of the baby. In some cases, cerebral palsy can happen when the brain is not fully developed in a particular area. However, it is also caused by a traumatic injury to the head during or after birth. Brain damage is sustained by forceps delivery in about 10 percent of cases. These complicated deliveries can also cause issues with the baby’s breathing or circulatory system.
You can spot the signs of cerebral palsy in infancy or during the child’s preschool years. These symptoms could include abnormal posture, abnormal reflexes, floppiness in the trunk and arms, involuntary movements, or unsteady walking. Those with cerebral palsy may have vision issues or difficulty swallowing. Some children could experience a reduced range of motion, as well. Cerebral palsy can lead to blindness, deafness, or epilepsy; these symptoms can vary from person to person. Some children can walk, and others have difficulty standing. Those who have cerebral palsy may experience mental disabilities, but some may have standard intellectual capacity. If you notice any of these signs in your child, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Forceps Delivery Lawsuits
Emergencies can occur during labor. However, fast decisions must be made to protect the life of the mother and baby. Doctors will use forceps for labor that is not progressing or if the baby is in distress. In all cases, forceps will help to get the baby out as soon as possible.
With these types of deliveries, there is a chance of birth injuries, including facial nerve damage or cerebral palsy. These injuries are often due to the pressure of the forceps on the baby’s head. In rare cases, this severe trauma can cause life-altering injuries that will require costly medical care.
The health of the mother and baby are at risk when forceps are used in the delivery. If the baby was injured during delivery with forceps, then it may have been the result of wrongdoing or negligence of the doctor and hospital staff. In these cases, the parents can choose to file a lawsuit against the hospital, medical staff, or doctor.
When you file a medical malpractice lawsuit, you have an opportunity to recoup the expenses of past and future medical bills. For a child who suffers from severe brain damage, they will need expensive medical care for the remainder of the child’s life.
You want an experienced Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorney to represent you in your medical malpractice action. The lawyers at Raynes & Lawn will hold those responsible parties accountable for the negligent actions that caused the birth injuries to your child. These injuries can take a significant financial and emotional toll on the child and their family as well. If your child has suffered a birth injury after the use of forceps, then you need to contact an attorney to seek compensation for your case.
For the general public: This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
For attorneys: This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients. Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.