Sometimes childbirth does not go as expected. Despite your efforts at pushing, the baby may not progress through the birth canal. When this occurs, the doctor may need to intervene.
According to the Mayo Clinic, vacuum-assisted delivery is a way to help guide the baby through the birth canal as an alternative to a cesarean section. It involves a soft cup placed on the baby’s head and connected to a vacuum pump to create suction. Vacuum-assisted delivery provides a safer alternative to forceps delivery but poses a risk of injury to both you and your baby.
Risks to the baby
Severe injuries to the baby from vacuum-assisted delivery are rare, but the risk still exists. Your baby may suffer bleeding within the skull, which may require surgery to correct. Vacuum-assisted delivery can cause scalp wounds or a skull fracture. It also poses a greater risk of shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck under your pelvic bone following delivery of the head.
Risks to you
To place the vacuum cup, your doctor may need to incise the tissue between your vagina and anus in a procedure called an episiotomy to create more room. As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of complications afterward.
Other risks to you from vacuum-assisted delivery include tears of the lower genital tract, urinary or fecal incontinence that may be long-term and perineal pain. These risks are comparable to those associated with unassisted vaginal delivery.
The alternative to vacuum-assisted delivery is usually a C-section. Your doctor should explain the risks and benefits of each to you before you decide how to proceed.