Birth Injuries Caused by Forceps

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Forceps are a surgical instrument that resemble a pair of large, curved tongs. They are used in obstetrics to assist during the delivery of a baby when the labor is not progressing adequately, or when the baby needs to be delivered quickly for safety reasons. The use of forceps involves carefully placing them around the baby’s head to gently pull the baby out during a contraction.

The use of forceps can be very beneficial in certain situations, but it also carries risks. It’s important for the delivery to be handled by an experienced practitioner to minimize potential complications.

Benefits of Using Forceps

Some of the benefits of using forceps include:

Facilitating Delivery in Cases of Exhausting or Prolonged Labor

In scenarios where the mother has been in labor for an extended period and is too fatigued to push effectively, forceps can provide the necessary assistance to complete the delivery.

If the mother has an epidural that limits her ability to push, forceps can help in guiding the baby through the birth canal.

Helping in Situations Where the Baby is in an Awkward Position

In cases where the baby’s head is slightly asynclitic (tilted to the side), forceps can help in adjusting the head for a smoother passage through the pelvis.

Speeding Up Delivery in Emergencies

If fetal monitoring indicates that the baby is experiencing distress, such as a rapid decline in heart rate, forceps can expedite delivery to reduce the time the baby is in distress.

In medical emergencies involving the mother, such as a sudden rise in blood pressure or cardiac issues, quickening the delivery with the help of forceps can be critical to managing her health.


While forceps can be beneficial under certain circumstances, their use also entails several potential risks that need to be considered carefully.

Bruises or Marks on the Baby’s Head (Usually Temporary)

Minor bruising or superficial marks on the scalp are common, resulting from the pressure of the forceps’ blades against the baby’s head. These are generally temporary and resolve without treatment.

Occasionally, more significant swelling or even a temporary deformation of the head (molding) can occur, which usually resolves within a few days after birth.

More Significant Injuries to the Baby’s Skull or Nerves

In rarer cases, the pressure exerted by the forceps can lead to more serious consequences, such as fractures to the baby’s skull. Such incidents are rare but require immediate medical attention.

Forceps can also cause nerve damage, particularly to the facial nerves. This might result in temporary or, in very rare cases, permanent facial nerve palsy, which might affect the baby’s ability to close one eye or smile symmetrically.

The brachial plexus, the network of nerves that sends signals to the shoulder, arm, and hand, can also be affected if the forceps placement and maneuver are not optimal.

Increased Risk of Perineal Tears or Injury to the Mother

The use of forceps increases the likelihood of significant perineal tearing, including third and fourth-degree tears, which involve the muscles and possibly the tissue surrounding the anus. These injuries may require surgical repair and can lead to long-term issues such as incontinence and pain.

There is also an elevated risk of injuries to the vaginal and cervical tissues, which can lead to prolonged recovery periods and complications such as infections or hemorrhage.

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Given these risks, the decision to use forceps should always be made with careful consideration of the specific situation, the mother’s health, the baby’s condition, and the experience of the healthcare provider. Proper technique and judicious use are essential to minimize these potential complications.

If you think you’ve been impacted by the misuse of forceps, call (502) 210-8942 or fill out our online form to request a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.