When spontaneous vaginal delivery is not an option, your Doctor may suggest that your delivery be completed using a technique called operative vaginal delivery. Operative vaginal delivery includes the use of forceps or vacuum to assist in the delivery of a baby. The use of forceps or vacuum is reasonable when an operative intervention to terminate labor is indicated and operative vaginal delivery can be safely and readily accomplished; otherwise, cesarean delivery is the better option.
The two most common indications for operative vaginal delivery are prolonged second stage of labor (the ‘pushing’ phase) and a concerning fetal heart tracing. When the second stage of labor carry’s on too long it can cause great discomfort for the mother and further delay birth. Occasionally, operative vaginal delivery can be used for patients with diseases that do not allow them to exert or push enough to deliver fully without help.
If you are a candidate for operative vaginal delivery, we will inform you of the options. Since our practice’s number one rule is “Healthy Moms & Healthy Babies”, we will suggest the mode of delivery that encourages both; however, the ultimate decision is yours.
When using operative vaginal delivery, there are some negative side effects to be aware of. Vacuum-assisted delivery can cause a temporary swelling of the baby’s head where the device is applied. Forceps deliveries are associated with a greater occurrence of vaginal lacerations and need for an incision of the perineum. These risks are countered with the risks associated with cesarean delivery. In over 9,000 deliveries, our practice has had approximately 4% operative vaginal deliveries, of which vacuum and forceps were equally represented.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!