Study Shows Forceps Deliveries Causing Increasing Trauma to Moms and Babies

A new study shows that forceps deliveries are causing increasing trauma to moms and babies in Canada.  The use of forceps during delivery is highly controversial, and many experts and researchers have warned that doctors are not properly trained to use the tools in a way that reduces the risk of injury.  Continued efforts to reduce the number of Cesarean section (c-section) deliveries may have led to an increase in forceps deliveries, which further highlights the importance of proper training and safety.

Unfortunately, a significant number of U.S.  medical residents have reported feeling ill prepared to properly use forceps during delivery.  In 2007, around half of reporting graduates felt “competent” using the tool.  Currently, the United States, Canada, and Australia are among the nation’s leading the conflict and searching for ways to prevent injuries and promote safer deliveries.

Forceps Deliveries Causing Increasing Trauma to Moms and Babies

A study published in June 2018 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reviewed nearly two million deliveries across Canada between 2004 and 2015.  The study found that the overall rates of physical injuries to women – lacerations, severe tears, injured pelvic organs, injured joints and ligaments – increased among both first-time mothers, and mothers with a history of c-section deliveries.

The increases in injuries were concentrated among women who had “operative” vaginal deliveries – meaning forceps deliveries or vacuum-assisted deliveries.  The most significant increase in injuries was among forceps deliveries, which included:

  • An increase from 19.4 percent in 2004 to 26.5 percent in 2014 among first-time mothers.
  • An increase from 17 percent in 2004 to 26 percent in 2014 among mothers with a history of c-section deliveries.
  • An increase in fetal trauma from 4.5 to 6.8 injuries per 1,000 deliveries between 2004 and 2014.

This study is not the first to show significant increases in injuries to mothers and babies when assistive tools are used.  In 2017, the University of British Columbia reported that severe birth trauma rates were five to ten times higher among deliveries where the baby’s head was midway through the birth canal.

Both studies highlight a potentially dangerous trend as the increased use of forceps and vacuums is clearly causing the rates of injury to increase as well.  As for the types of injuries reported, the most common maternal injury was severe perineal tears, or tears to the skin below the vagina.  The most common injuries to babies were brachial plexus injuries – injuries to the nerves and tissue leading from the spinal cord to the neck and down the arm.

At Brown & Brothers, we have managed numerous cases involving brachial plexus injuries, many of which involved improper use of assistive tools like forceps.  If you or your child was injured during birth, and you believe that a healthcare provider’s improper or negligent actions led to those injuries, contact us today to learn more about your rights as a patient.

Healthcare System in Conflict in Canada and United States

The healthcare environment in Canada and the U.S.  is in the midst of conflict over how best to facilitate labor and delivery.  One side of the argument claims that c-section rates are too high, and urges doctors to use alternative methods, including forceps and vacuums.  The other side, which includes increasing research support, claims that increasing rates of injuries should be a warning sign that doctors should avoid assistive tools unless absolutely necessary.

There are many risks involved with using forceps, with the most common injuries being:

Maternal Injuries:

  • Tears to the perineal region/lower genitals
  • Perineum pain
  • Bladder injuries
  • Urethra injuries
  • Urinary or bowel incontinence
  • Anemia/bleeding problems

Infant Injuries:

  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Facial injuries and paralysis
  • Bruising or swelling of the head
  • Skull fractures
  • Brain damage
  • Seizures

Any of these injuries can be damaging and can present complications if not properly diagnosed and treated.  It is important to discuss any risks associated with labor and delivery, and possible tools used, prior to consenting to any procedure.

You may also find it helpful to discuss options like assistive tools with your doctor during your prenatal appointments.  Find out how comfortable your doctor is with using these tools, and whether he or she has training specifically for their use.  This is also a great time to address your concerns about using assistive tools or the possibility of options like a c-section.

Understanding Your Legal Rights and Healthcare Choices

During a stressful and emotional situation like childbirth, it can be difficult to keep a calm, clear head when making decisions.  You should know that your healthcare provider is responsible for making sure that you understand potential risks to any procedure before he or she begins.  That includes procedures involving birthing tools like forceps or vacuums.

As a patient, you have the right to choose not to consent to a procedure or use of a certain tool.  If you are not comfortable with your doctor using forceps or a vacuum, you have the right to speak up and seek alternative options.  Depending on your situation and overall health, your options may vary, but you still have the right to choose the healthcare options that are best for you.

If, at any time, you have questions or concerns about your legal rights related to healthcare, contact Brown & Brothers to learn more.  When it comes to medical malpractice or birth injuries, every case is unique, and you deserve to get answers and find out if you qualify for a legal remedy.  To request a free case review with one of our birth injury attorneys, fill out our online form or call us at 1-877-415-6603.