Firm Logo

Long-Term Side Effects of Forceps Delivery

August 19, 2022
Long-Term Side Effects of Forceps Delivery

Unfortunately, some infant deliveries experience complications or difficulties that require the use of delivery-assisting tools such as forceps. While forceps can ensure successful delivery, improper use can also cause permanent damage to a baby. Negligent use of forceps that lead to injuries to a child can give rise to a medical malpractice claim against the OB/GYN and delivery team. 

Types of Forceps

There are actually hundreds of specific types of forceps, with various types used in certain delivery situations, including the shape of the baby’s head and the mother’s birth canal and how far along the delivery is. However, all forceps share the same basic design of having two prongs, called blades, that are used to grip the baby’s head. Some of the more commonly used types of forceps include:

  • Elliot forceps, used for babies with rounder heads
  • Simpson forceps, used when a child’s head is stuck in the birth canal
  • Wrigley’s forceps, used when the baby is further down the birth canal
  • Piper’s forceps, often used during breech births to grasp the baby’s entire body
  • Kielland forceps, the most frequently used type of forceps, which help doctors rotate the baby into the correct position for delivery

Why Are Forceps Used in Delivery?

Some of the cases in which doctors may choose to use forceps include:

  • Breech birth (the baby is not positioned head-first)
  • Ruptured membranes
  • Dilated cervix
  • Labor is not progressing
  • Labor is prolonged and the mother is becoming exhausted or has medical complications such as hypertension or heart disease
  • Changes to the baby’s heart rate
  • The baby is low in the birth canal

Forceps should only be used when a delivery team is set up to perform a cesarean section since C-sections should immediately be performed once the first attempt with forceps is unsuccessful. 

Adverse Consequences of Forceps Use

Improper or negligent use of forceps during delivery can cause a wide range of injuries and long-term complications for both mother and child. Mothers may sustain physical injuries from forceps, including:

  • Vaginal tearing
  • Perineal tearing
  • Uterine rupture
  • Damage to the bladder or urinary tract
  • Short-term or long-term incontinence
  • Weakening of the pelvic organs/pelvic organ prolapse

Infants can also sustain forceps injuries that include:

  • Skull fractures
  • Eye injuries
  • Facial injuries and lacerations
  • Facial palsy
  • Bleeding within the skull or brain
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Nerve damage

Improper use of forceps can result in one or more different types of palsy, which can have long-term complications for a child. For example, forceps may be used when a baby experiences shoulder dystocia, which involves the baby’s shoulders getting stuck in the mother’s pelvis. If the baby’s head has made it out of the birth canal, doctors may use forceps to complete delivery. However, failing to resolve the shoulder dystocia before pulling the baby out with forceps may result in broken arms or clavicles and may also cause brachial palsy, a condition involving damage to the nerves that run through the shoulders into the arms that can lead to numbness, weakness, and paralysis. Brachial palsy may resolve on its own, while more serious damage may require surgery and physical therapy.

Negligent use of forceps can also cause cerebral palsy, a condition resulting from brain damage that has permanent symptoms such as problems with motor function and balance and loss of muscle tone, in addition to vision loss or blindness, deafness, or epilepsy. If a doctor puts too much pressure on a baby’s head while using forceps, it can cause damage that leads to 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 & Paul, 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., #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.

We Have Successfully Handled Cases Like Yours