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Why are forceps used? Are they safe for your baby?

The content on this site is informational and does not create an attorney-client relationship or offer legal or medical advice. Every situation is different.

As an expectant mother, it's safe to say that you have your fair share of worries to deal with. This is your first child. You don't want to do anything wrong, but you have no experience. You just want to keep your child safe and happy.

To that end, you start looking into the different tools and methods that doctors may use when the baby is born. One thing you find is that they sometimes use forceps to assist when the mother has trouble pushing the baby all the way out of the birth canal. Why are these used and are they safe?

Reasons for use

There are a few reasons why doctors may opt to use forceps to assist you. For instance, perhaps you have been trying to push the baby and it's clear that, while close, it is not going to happen promptly on its own. In some cases, that can be dangerous for the child. In other cases, the mother -- you -- may just feel so tired that she needs the assistance as much as the newborn does.

Sometimes, doctors also use forceps to speed things along if they fear for the child's safety. One thing they monitor is the child's stress levels. If these appear elevated due to a prolonged delivery, the forceps may come into play. Doctors could also discover a wide range of complications that mean they feel like they cannot wait any longer.

Are they safe?

Technically speaking, forceps should be safe. Issues arise when doctors make mistakes or use them improperly. For instance, using them when the child is not close enough to the end of the birth canal could be problematic. Putting too much pressure on the baby's head and neck while pulling could also cause serious issues. Some injuries that babies suffer include:

  • Cuts
  • Bruises
  • Nerve damage
  • A cone-shaped skull
  • Internal bleed on the skull
  • Broken bones

Again, you should not face serious complications. Minor issues, like bruising, should heal quickly. Forceps are an approved medical device.

If your baby does have serious complications, that's when you want to ask if the doctor made a mistake, acted in error or offered negligent care in some other fashion. Why did this happen to your child? Could the medical team have avoided it? What type of advanced care may the child -- or you -- need after the birthing process comes to an end?

Your options

If the forceps result in serious complications and injuries, it is important for you to understand all of the legal options that you have. This is not the way you envisioned the birth going, and you need to know exactly where you stand.

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