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Do the benefits of using forceps during birth outweigh the risks?

Perhaps you are one of many women here in Texas who enjoyed an uneventful pregnancy. You have no reason to believe that the labor and delivery will be any different.

Then, before you even realize what is happening, your obstetrician tells you that he or she needs to use forceps to deliver your baby. What went wrong? Is using forceps really necessary or does it put your baby at unnecessary risk? Should your doctor have acted sooner? After a birth injury, you may find yourself asking these questions.

When forceps become an option

In most instances, doctors will shy away from using forceps unless absolutely necessary. Below are some of the circumstances that may warrant this method of delivery:

  • Medical staff should continue to monitor your baby's heart rate throughout the delivery. If it indicates your child is in distress, the baby is low in the birth canal and you are fully dilated, a forceps delivery may be appropriate.
  • If you suffer from a health issue that pushing would only exacerbate and put both of you in danger, your doctor may recommend a forceps delivery.
  • If you have pushed for a long time with no results, using forceps could provide the bit of extra help you need.

Your doctor should not attempt this method of delivery unless the facilities are available to perform a C-section if needed. On the other hand, if your doctor fails to recognize the need for a forceps delivery or delays it unnecessarily, you and/or your baby could suffer harm.

When forceps don't become an option

Under the circumstances below, a forceps delivery doesn't make sense:

  • Your doctor does not yet know where you baby's head is in reference to the birth canal.
  • A forceps delivery is not advisable until the baby's head has passed the halfway point in the birth canal.
  • If your baby suffers from a blood or bone condition, a forceps delivery probably would only cause more harm.
  • Your baby is coming out arms and shoulders first.
  • If your baby is too large to fit through the birth canal when compared to the size of your pelvis, a forceps delivery will more than likely not happen safely.

If your doctor fails to consider these standards of care and attempts a forceps delivery anyway, you and your child could suffer serious harm. The risks to you and your baby require careful consideration before making the decision to attempt this type of delivery. If your obstetrician falls below the accepted standard of care in this situation and serious injuries occur, you may be able to pursue compensation through a medical malpractice claim.

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