Forceps are supposed to allow anyone to deliver a baby, regardless of skill. While that may have been the case at one time, forceps have become a rarity in modern medicine. That begs the question, are forceps safe for your baby?

A Dangerous Trend?

Just 30 years ago, forceps were used in about 5.1% of natural births. In 2020, forceps are used in 0.5% of all US births. Although forceps are used less than ever before, forceps-related injuries are rising. 

Doctors aren’t learning to use forceps like they used to. Decreased use of forceps means less field practice honing their skills. Not only that, but there are several kinds of obstetrical forceps, each with a specific purpose. Strong technique isn’t enough; doctors need to know how to pick the right tool for the job and act while under pressure.

Medical journals have taken notice of this issue. There’s a concern that forceps are a “dying art” and that there may not be anyone to teach proper use in the coming decades. Eliminating forceps altogether isn’t the solution. There are cases where forceps are necessary to secure the baby’s health and where proper use and technique can ensure a smooth delivery with a lower risk of injury.

Are Forceps Risky?

It’s important to note that forceps are a good choice when birth cannot proceed normally. When used properly, forceps can prevent complications from a breech birth, rotate a baby stuck in the birth canal, or help the mother when she’s too tired to push. They’re often a more attractive choice than C-section as they’re less invasive and don’t come with surgical risks.

That said, there’s no question forceps-related injuries have been rising over the past thirty years. Difficult as it may be, it’s important that you are able to recognize the signs of a forceps-related birth injury. A few of the most common risks from forceps include:

Forceps-Related Injuries for Infants

  • Brain injury

  • Brachial plexus injury (Erb’s palsy)

  • Eye damage

  • Skull fracture

  • Cranial hemorrhage (Brain bleed)

Forceps-Related Injuries for Mothers

  • Bruising and soreness

  • Vaginal lacerations

  • Pelvic prolapse

  • Incontinence

  • Nerve damage

Any of these injuries can cause a lifetime of hardship for both the mother and child. That is why it’s crucial trained doctors practice their forceps technique and pick the right tools for the job. Any mistake in the delivery room is significantly riskier because it affects two people: the mother and the child.

Is There a Place for Forceps?

Remember that there are several types of forceps, each specially designed for a particular complication. For example, Piper’s Forceps are uniquely capable of reducing risk during a breech birth.

Forceps are useful tools; that’s why they’ve been used for more than 500 years. The problem is not in the tool itself, but the skills of those who use them. As C-sections becomes a more popular option, birthing forceps (and other options like suction) are used less frequently. The less often these skills are used, the greater the chance of a mistake.

Forceps still have a place in our hospitals, but we need to emphasize their importance and ensure doctors have the training they need to use their tools skillfully. When doctors aren’t comfortable using all the tools at their disposal, they run the risk of injuring you and your baby.

If you or your baby suffered a serious injury from the improper use of forceps, we are here for you. If you’d like an experienced Albuquerque medical malpractice attorney from James Wood Law to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (505) 906-6774.

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