Forceps and other tools have been used for centuries to help women finish delivering their babies. But in modern medicine, experts recommend that doctors use them only when a normal vaginal birth is not progressing, because the use of forceps carries a risk of bruising and other complications for both mother and child. In fact, at their most serious, complications from forceps may lead to permanent disabilities for the baby and his or her mother.
Obstetrical forceps look a little like large tongs or scissors with gentle loops in the place of the blades. Doctors generally employ them when the baby isn't coming despite effort from the mother, the mother shouldn't push anymore or an immediate birth is necessary. The woman is given anesthetic or an epidural and her bladder should be empty. Then, the birthing team reaches in with forceps, fits them around the baby's head, performs an episiotomy (a surgical cut between the vagina and the anus) on the mother, and uses the forceps to literally pull the baby out.
Forceps help doctors avoid a caesarian section, which many prefer to avoid because it's major surgery that runs risks for the mother. However, forceps themselves pose risks that run from temporary bruising to permanent disabilities for both mother and child. Risks to the baby include:
- Bruising and cuts around the head and face
- Temporary or permanent facial nerve paralysis
- Caput succedaneum
- Rarely, skull fracture or brain damage
For the mother, especially a first-time mother, risks include:
- Cuts and bruises to the reproductive organs and bladder
- Erb's palsy
- Tearing of the rectum and vagina
- Unnecessary blood loss
- Rectovaginal fistula (a tear between the vagina and rectum), leading to rectal leakage, incontinence and possible infection
Because of these risks, and because caesarian sections have become safer and easier, forceps are falling out of favor among mothers and birthing professionals. Bruising, cuts, caput succedaneum and most facial nerve paralysis should disappear during the first weeks of the baby's life.
However, other complications can become serious, permanent disabilities that follow the baby and his or her family for a lifetime. Brain damage and Erb's palsy, in which the child has limited or no use of one arm, are lifelong disabilities that start a newborn's life with substantial disadvantages. Blood loss to the mother can be life-threatening, and damage to the vagina and rectum can lead to leakage of feces and gas from the anus to the vagina. Not only is this an embarrassing condition that can devastate the mother's sex life, but it can lead to dangerous vaginal infections.
These conditions are heartbreaking enough as they are. But when they're the result of a bad decision by a doctor, nurse or other medical professional, the patients are victims of birth injury and other forms of medical malpractice. Medical professionals have a legal and ethical duty to provide care that meets reasonable community standards. When they fail in that duty, their patients have the right to hold them responsible for the results -- physical, emotional and financial.
The New York birth injury lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP can help. We are a law firm that specializes in representing victims of birth injuries or other injuries caused by medical malpractice. Thanks to decades of representing seriously injured people, we understand the medical and legal complexities of medical malpractice lawsuits -- and we have the track record of successes to prove it. We're proud to say that we've won millions for victims of birth injuries and medical malpractice, including a $4.75 million recovery for a baby born with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriparesis after doctors failed to act on signs that he wasn't getting enough oxygen.
If you or someone you love has suffered a forceps-related birth injury, call the NY birth injury attorneys at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP today at (212) 986-7353 for a free evaluation of your case.
WRSH Partner Philip Russotti obtained a $10 Million mediation settlement for failure to timely perform a Cesarean Section. The case was venued in Orange County, NY.
WRSH Partner, Phil Russotti, obtained a $6 million settlement for our client whose child suffered severe brain damage during birth.
We claimed that the baby should have been delivered by emergency C-Section or forceps delivery. He was ultimately diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriparesis.
Partner Philip Russotti argued that as a result of this negligence, the child suffered hypoxia which resulted in mild retardation, severe ADHD and social isolation as well as difficulties with fine motor skills.
WRSH obtained a $1,300,000 jury verdict, after a three week medical malpractice trial in Staten Island, on behalf of a 6-year-old girl who suffered a brachial plexus injury known as Erb's palsy.
We claimed that the hospital was negligent for not intervening and performing a cesarean section in light of the mother's failure to adequately progress in labor.