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When assisted delivery with forceps may be necessary

Many New York mothers experience complications when delivering their babies that require doctors to help the process along with the use of forceps. This is an accepted practice that can help avert life-threatening birth emergencies. Babies generally suffer minimal side effects, if any, of the procedure. However, some babies suffer serious injuries when being delivered with the use of forceps. This is more likely when doctors fail to prepare for certain emergencies even when mothers display risk factors for complications.

A forceps-assisted delivery may be necessary when a woman is fully dilated for more than two hours but her baby cannot come through the foremost part of the birth canal. A baby may need to exit the birth canal more quickly than doctors expect the mother could push him or her out. A long period of labor may exhaust a woman beyond the point where she can push anymore. Women with certain medical conditions may be unable to push without serious risk.

Doctors who decide to use forceps to assist a baby out of its mother's birth canal do so because they determine that the benefits of a more timely delivery outweigh the risks of the procedure. Most complications resulting from forceps-assisted delivery are not serious. A baby may have bruises, cuts or other mild surface injuries to their head or face. The head may be misshapen for one or two days.

More serious risks of forceps-assisted delivery may include intracranial bleeding or nerve damage that causes the muscles in the face, neck or arm to lose normal function. Brachial plexus and other injuries that carry the risk of lifelong complication may result from a poorly-performed forceps-assisted delivery. Some new parents consider filing medical malpractice suits against hospitals or medical professionals after a serious birth injury.

Source: National Institutes of Health, "Assisted delivery with forceps", accessed on Jan. 13, 2015

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