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What is a vacuum extraction during childbirth?

Labor and delivery is normally a happy time for expectant mothers as they finally get to meet their newborns. Mothers don't expect problems during this stage of pregnancy, usually because medical professionals are normally near to assist with bringing the infant into the world. However, difficulties do occur and when they do, they can often present a serious risk to the baby and mother. Some procedures can cause injury to the mother or baby, such as vacuum extraction.

This procedure is used to help move the baby through the birth canal and is most often done when the mother is pushing through a contraction. It is most commonly used when the health of the baby requires an immediate delivery or if labor is not moving forward.

There are several criteria that must be met before vacuum extraction is used. These are:

-- A fully dilated cervix.

-- Burst membranes.

-- The baby is in the birth canal headfirst.

When this procedure is recommended, a Cesarean section is usually another option available. The vacuum extraction uses a vacuum pump and a rigid or soft cup that has a handle. The cup is applied to the baby's head to help it out of the birth canal. Your doctor may warn against this procedure if:

-- You are not at least 34 weeks pregnant.

-- Your baby's head is not at least halfway through the birth canal.

-- Your baby is in the breech position.

-- Your baby has had a fetal scalp sampling done.

-- Your baby is too big to fit through the pelvis.

-- Your baby has a bleeding disorder or a condition that makes his or her bones weaker.

The risks to your baby include:

-- A skull fracture.

-- Scalp wounds.

-- Bleeding inside the skull.

-- A collarbone fracture.

-- A brachial plexus injury.

-- A risk of the baby's shoulder getting stuck once the head is delivered.

If you believe that your physician or other health care personnel was responsible for injuries to you or your baby because of a vacuum extraction, an experienced lawyer can provide you with information on how to seek compensation.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Vacuum extraction," accessed March 23, 2016

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