Forceps deliveries are carried out to deliver a baby whose head has become stuck in a bent position or help out when all other methods have failed (e.g., ventouse).
The instruments used for forceps deliveries are called “forceps.” They were originally designed in ancient Greece and consisted of two wooden spoons with handles.
Forceps deliveries are carried out under a general anesthetic, so the mother is asleep and will not feel any pain or pressure on her body.
The forceps are placed over the baby’s head through the vagina. The blades of the forceps are then carefully positioned around either side of the chin, cheeks, top of skull, and forehead.
Gentle, steady pressure is then applied until they lock into place. The midwife or doctor monitors this by listening to sounds inside the birth canal with a “stethoscope.” It may be necessary to apply more than one pair of forceps to ensure an effective fit, and this can take several attempts if the first attempt is unsuccessful. This type of delivery should only take about 5 minutes.
After the delivery, the midwife or doctor will check that your baby is healthy before you are allowed to wake up and meet your new little one. Forceps deliveries may leave you feeling a bit sore and bruised, and it can take a few days to recover fully from having a general anesthetic.
About 1 in 8 labors need to use forceps, so it is not too unusual. Of those, about 4 in every 100 women will need an assisted forceps birth like this. Delivery by ventouse (suction) is becoming more popular as it usually means no after-effects such as bruising or tearing; however, if this isn’t working, forceps are be needed instead of an emergency Caesarean section (C-section).
Some mothers find the use of forceps frightening from the word go, as it sounds as though they are being forced to have a cesarean section. It may be helpful to think about it as an alternative to a ventouse delivery with no bruising afterward. A good way of looking at it is as a ‘helping hand’ that can make all the difference between tearing and not tearing.
In conclusion, forceps can be a successful instrument, although not always effective. It is much easier for the mother to recover from than an assisted ventouse delivery, but it may pose a risk to both mother and baby if not used properly or if the wrong forceps are used.