Hazards of a Vacuum Delivery

Hazards of a Vacuum Delivery

The labor and delivery process can be a painful and arduous one for the mother involved. About one in every 20 deliveries in the United States are vaginal. However, as time has progressed, more doctors and mothers are opting not to use the traditional forceps as a delivery assistance tool and moving toward the use of the vacuum extractor. If you or a loved one has undergone a vacuum delivery and the mother or newborn in question has experienced complications stemming from the delivery, you may want to consult with a birth injury lawyer.

How does vacuum extraction work?

The vacuum’s suction cup is placed on the head of the baby (not on their soft spot, though) and the doctor uses a special pump to create the suction necessary to guide the baby out of the birth canal. This method normally only happens if the position of the baby’s head is known, if the mother’s bladder is empty, and if an appropriate amount of anesthesia has been administered.

Benefits of vacuum delivery

Although there are many risks associated with a vacuum delivery, it is important to note that operative deliveries (such as those using forceps or vacuum extractors) are a smart choice for some expectant mothers.

For example, if the mother has a cardiac condition and doctors don’t want her to be pushing for an extended period, they may recommend she use a vacuum extractor to assist her during delivery.

Additionally, if there are signs that the baby could be in fetal distress, such as a rapid change in their heartbeat, quicker delivery may be necessary to ensure the health of both the mother and the baby.

Risks of vacuum delivery for the newborn

As with any process during labor and delivery, there are hazards and risks associated with vacuum delivery. One risk is superficial scalp wounds. Although there will likely be some bruising on the heads of almost all newborns who are born with the help of a vacuum extractor, most of it will go away within a couple of weeks.

However, this delivery method can also cause small cuts in the skin of the scalp, especially if there are complications with the delivery and multiple detachments of the suction cup.

Another possible complication is the appearance of a hematoma (a formation of blood under the skin) on the baby’s head. There are two kinds of hematoma commonly associated with vacuum delivery: cephalohematomas and subgaleal hematomas.

Cephalohematomas are instances of bleeding that are confined to the space under the skull bone’s fibrous covering. These will rarely lead to any serious complications but will usually remain for one or two weeks.

Subgaleal hematomas are more serious. They occur when blood accumulates just under the baby’s scalp. Since the subgaleal area is relatively large, a significant amount of blood can be lost this way. Many experts consider this to be the most dangerous complication and hazard associated with vacuum delivery. However, now that doctors have moved away from the use of metal vacuum cups and started using a soft plastic variety, the development of subgaleal hematomas during vacuum deliveries has decreased.

Other risks can include retinal hemorrhage (bleeding in the back of the eyes), intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding inside the skull), skull fractures of varying degrees of severity, and neonatal jaundice due to the baby’s underdeveloped liver and inability to process chemicals released in the body when bruising occurs.

Final thoughts

Many doctors are not trained in the practice of operative vaginal deliveries in the way that doctors used to be, so there is a much higher rate of cesarean sections as opposed to deliveries by forceps or vacuum suction. Make sure to consult with your physician regarding what processes they are comfortable executing in the delivery room. If you believe you or your newborn have been injured due to negligence during vacuum delivery, contact a birth injury lawyer and schedule a consultation today.