Sometimes the birth of a baby does not proceed as planned, and a vaginal delivery may be difficult or impossible. In the latter case, it may be necessary to perform a cesarean section, which carries its own risks of complication.
Assisted vaginal delivery is an alternative to cesarean section that uses tools to help the mother deliver the baby. Because it poses health risks to both mother and child, an obstetrician should only perform an assisted vaginal delivery when labor is not progressing on its own or in a medical emergency when the baby’s life depends upon prompt delivery.
What are the different types of assisted vaginal delivery?
According to Merck Manual, there are two different types of assisted vaginal delivery: forceps delivery and vacuum extraction.
The older of the two types, forceps delivery involves using a gripping tool that is similar in appearance to a pair of salad tongs. The obstetrician uses the forceps to grip the baby’s head and gently pull the baby through the birth canal.
Vacuum extraction involves attaching a suction cup to the baby’s head and using a machine to create a vacuum. The suction cup has a handle that the obstetrician can use to gently draw the baby out of the birth canal while the vacuum pulls on the baby’s body.
What are the possible complications of assisted vaginal delivery?
Too much pressure on the baby’s head from either forceps delivery or vacuum extraction can result in a skull fracture. Vacuum extraction can cause cephalohematoma, which is bleeding inside the baby’s brain. Other harms to the baby that are possible with vacuum extraction include retinal bleeding and shoulder dystocia.
Assisted vaginal delivery can also result in complications affecting the mother, particularly lacerations of the perineum.