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What kinds of birth injuries can arise from a forceps delivery?

Forceps are a medical tool somewhat resembling salad tongs that physicians use to assist mothers in birthing a baby. In many cases, the use of forceps is critical to the health of the infant and may even save his or her life.

However, this device can also lead to birth injuries in the infant as well as the mother. Because of these injury risks, labor and delivery doctors should only use forceps if the baby or the mother is in imminent danger.

Several medical issues can arise that may indicate the need to use forceps, such as:

  • The infant's heartbeat indicates a potential problem
  • The mother's labor is not progressing
  • The baby is facing in the wrong direction
  • The mother is experiencing problems or has a health condition

If one or more of these issues arises, the doctor may choose to use forceps to guide the infant through the birth canal as safely as possible. Since doctors are aware that the use of forceps carries the risk of birth injuries, they should inform patients that a forceps delivery is not the only solution.

In many cases, a C-section may also be an option. In all cases, the physician should seek parental consent before using forceps.

Examples of birth injuries that may occur with forceps delivery include:

  • Facial injuries or facial palsy in the infant
  • Trauma to the infant's eyes
  • Skull fractures or bleeding in the baby's skull

Mothers may also suffer injuries from the use of forceps. Examples include tearing of the genital tract, long or short-term incontinence, anemia due to blood loss and uterine rupture.

If forceps-related birth injuries occur because a doctor made a mistake or used forceps in error, legal remedies do exist to help make you and your family as whole as possible. A great first step for Massachusetts residents is to seek a legal opinion from a qualified law professional.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Forceps delivery," accessed March 26, 2018

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