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Can Forceps Cause Birth Defects?

March 15, 2021
Can Forceps Cause Birth Defects?

Forceps are a medical instrument that look like a long pair of tongs, and are used to help with vaginal births. If used correctly, forceps can help deliver a baby quickly without injury. However, forceps can easily cause birth injuries when improperly used. Physicians must only use forceps in proper circumstances, and must use with appropriate care to not apply excessive force on a baby. 

When Should Forceps Be Used During Birth?

The use of forceps may be indicated during delivery under circumstances such as:

  • The mother suffers a hemorrhage
  • The mother is exhausted from prolonged labor
  • The mother has medical conditions, such as heart issues, that make pushing hard during delivery dangerous for the other
  • The baby begins having abnormal vital signs
  • The baby suffers a breech delivery, which is when other parts of the baby, such as the legs, are delivered first

Other conditions that must be met before a physician should use forceps include:

  • Membranes must be ruptured
  • The cervix must be fully dilated
  • The mother’s bladder must be empty
  • The baby’s head must be engaged and the fetal position should be known

Physicians should also explain the risks of forceps use to the mother and also be prepared to abandon use of the forceps if complications occur and proceed to a cesarean section.

Conditions Under Which Forceps Should Not Be Used

Physicians should not use forceps if:

  • The fetus is less than 34 weeks.
  • The baby’s head is too large to pass through the mother’s pelvis
  • There are indications the baby has bone, connective tissue, or bleeding disorders

Proper Use of Forceps

A physician should have proper training and sufficient experience to use forceps. The standard of care also requires that only one instrument be used during a birth. If a physician chooses to use forceps, they should not switch to another instrument, and vice versa. If forceps are not assisting with the birth, a physician should discontinue their use and proceed to a C-section.

Due to the risk of causing birth injuries, physicians should also obtain proper informed consent from the mother prior to using forceps. This means explaining the benefits of using forceps and the potential risks, along with alternative options, including C-section. If a physician does not have training or significant experience with using forceps, this should also be disclosed.

How Forceps Use Can Cause Birth Injuries

Improper forceps use can lead to a wide variety of birth injuries, including:

These injuries may lead to permanent cognitive and motor skills disabilities for a child.

Forceps can cause injuries to a baby’s head when the physician using the forceps applies excessive force or uneven force, which can fracture the baby’s skull, rupture blood vessels, and damage brain tissue. 

Many cases of birth injuries arising from forceps use occur when a physician makes a second or subsequent effort to facilitate delivery with forceps after a first attempt was unsuccessful. On the subsequent attempts, the physician may end up applying excessive or improper force with the forceps to deliver the baby. This is why the standard of care calls for a physician to proceed to a C-section when a first effort with forceps is unsuccessful in delivering a baby.

Read more: How Do You Detect Cerebral Palsy?

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney for a Consultation About Your Birth Injury Case in Pennsylvania

Were you or a loved one injured due to medical malpractice in Pennsylvania? Then you need to talk to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible for guidance on how to proceed. The Pittsburgh birth injury attorneys at Berger & Lagnese, LLC are prepared to assist you with your legal claim. We represent victims of negligent surgeons, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists throughout Pennsylvania, including Butler, Cranberry Township, Erie, and Greensburg. Call us today at (412) 471-4300 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Our main office is located at 310 Grant St., Suite 720, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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