Common Birth Injuries That Result From Improper Use Of Birth-Assistance Tools

As an expectant mother, you put your trust in the hands of your obstetrician or the doctor who is on call when you go into labor—trusting that the doctor will guide your baby out of the birth canal safely. However, some labors are more difficult than others, such as when the baby’s head gets stuck in the birth canal and no amount of pushing is helping. As a result, a doctor will use birth-assistance tools to help ease the baby out of the birth canal.

Tools such as forceps (surgical tongs) and a vacuum extractor (a soft cup placed on the baby’s head with suction) are still used in difficult vaginal deliveries where the baby is in an abnormal position or the baby’s size is too big in relation to the mother’s pelvic bones. When birthing tools are used in these types of situations, it is possible that injuries to the baby can occur if the doctor uses too much force or doesn’t use the tools correctly.

Types of Injuries that Result From Birthing Instruments

When labor and delivery tools are misused, a baby can suffer serious birth injuries such as:

  • Head injuries such as caput succedaneum (scalp swelling) and cephalohematoma (pooling of blood between the periosteum and skull) can occur as a result of a doctor’s poor use of birthing instruments. Sadly, using forceps incorrectly can also cause an injury to the skull and brain, causing permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy.  
  • Neck and face injuries such as lacerations, bruising, and broken bones can occur as a result of improper use of birth-assisting tools. In addition, some babies suffer Bell’s palsy (facial nerve damage) and subconjunctival hemorrhage (blood vessels in the baby’s eyes break), among other birth injuries.
  • Shoulder and arm injuries such as brachial plexus injuries (nerve damage in the affected arm, which affects movement) and clavicle fractures (broken collarbones) can also be caused by improper use of forceps and vacuum extractors.

If your child suffered any type of birth injury following the use of forceps or a vacuum extractor, you should contact a knowledgeable birth injury attorney to discuss your possible medical malpractice claim. We would be honored to provide you with a free consultation at (703) 721-4233 and a free copy of our book, Do I Have a Case? A Patient’s Guide to Virginia Medical Negligence Law.


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