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What Are the Risks to Mom and Baby from Vacuum Extraction?

Not all births go the way they are supposed to. Sometimes a baby presents in the breech position, feet or bottom first. Sometimes the baby’s head is a little too large for the mother’s birth canal.

These may be instances in which the professional handling the delivery decides that the process needs an operative assist — that is, either the use of forceps or vacuum extraction is needed.

According to data available from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, these types of procedures are done in about 5 percent of all deliveries in the U.S. And while most go alright, they are not without risk to both the mother and to the child. If the provider fails to exercise due care, it can result in a variety of serious injuries or permanent disabilities.

Forceps have been around for hundreds of years, but the NCBI site says use of vacuum extraction has grown a lot in the past 20 years.

As the Mayo Clinic notes in its online resource, vacuum extraction involves the application of a level of suction to the baby’s head to help it through the birth canal. From the perspective of the mother, the procedure holds a potential heightened risk of trauma to the lower genital tract. It may also lead to short- or long-term urinary or bowel voiding problems. Pelvic organ prolapse is also an acknowledged risk.

For the newborn, the issues can be even more serious. Nerves from the spine to the arms could be injured or torn resulting in a need for surgical repair. Other possible injuries include collarbone fractures and skull fractures.

The Mayo site offers the assurance that such occurrences are rare, but that’s little comfort if you are the family that has been the victim of injury due to negligence. Obtaining compensation may be a priority and meeting that priority is something to discuss with an experienced attorney.