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Understanding assisted deliveries

Most in Providence County would likely agree that obstetrical and gynecological science has come quite a ways from the days when the delivery process often presented life-threatening complications to both mothers and babies. That may largely be due to the many tools that doctors now have to assist women with delivery. However, in many cases, the very tools that doctors use to try and avoid complications can end up being the avenues through which harm is caused.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines an assisted or operative vaginal delivery as one in which tools such as a vacuum extractor or forceps are used to help deliver a baby. ACOG’s data shows that such assistance occurs in nearly 3 percent of all vaginal deliveries that occur in the U.S. The use of forceps involves inserting a metal instrument into the mother’s vagina to grasp the baby’s head and help pull it out of the birth canal. A vacuum extractor is used much the same way, however it involves creating suction on the top of the baby’s head as opposed to grasping it.

Information shared by Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology shows that the vacuum extractor has progressively become the instrument of choice amongst doctors when performing an assisted vaginal delivery. Indications that are used to determine whether assistance is needed during delivery include:

  •          Suspicions of fetal complications during labor
  •          Lack of progress during the second stage of labor
  •          Perceived necessity to shorten the second stage of labor
  •          Maternal exhaustion

Using devices to assist with delivery may increase the risk of injury to both mother and baby. Mothers may experience tissue damage, while babies can be at risk for intracranial bleeding or injuries to the head, eyes and/or scalp. 

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