Sometimes, despite all your hard work, labour just doesn't go as you hoped. When this happens, no matter how long you've spent perfecting your birth plan, you may have to bin the entire tome and let your medical team take over to help your baby out.
Reasons for having a forceps or ventouse delivery include:
- Your baby's health is at risk, possibly because they're not getting enough oxygen
- You may be too tired to push or your health may be at risk if labour continues
- If you can't feel a thing after an epidural, it can sometimes be very difficult to know how hard you're pushing or when to push (ideally, your midwife will time things so that your epidural begins to wear off as you near the third stage, but labour isn't so great at clock-watching)
- Sometimes your baby just doesn't get in the right position to be born without extra help
Preparing for delivery
If you haven't already had an epidural or spinal block, you'll be given a local anaesthetic to numb the birth canal.
You'll have a catheter placed in your bladder to empty it and you may also require an episiotomy, particularly if you're having a forceps delivery.
Your legs are then put in stirrups so the ventouse or forceps can be put in place.
Your baby's head is cupped between a metal instrument (that looks like a giant pair of salad servers with hollow centres) and the two intersecting parts are then locked together at the handles.
As you push through a contraction, the obstetrician will pull on the forceps handles and, hopefully, help your baby out.
Forceps can cause bruising and grazes to your baby's head and face, but these should calm down over several days and eventually disappear altogether. There's also a small risk of damage to your baby's facial nerves, but this too usually self-corrects in a couple of days. In very rare cases, the baby can suffer a broken collar bone.
As for you? Unsurprisingly, you may be a bit sore and bruised afterwards and find going to the loo difficult. All this should pass with time, but ask your midwife for advice if you experience any problems.
That said, forceps births are associated with an increased risk of damage to the vagina, bladder and the muscle surrounding the anus. If you've had an episiotomy or suffer a bad vaginal tear, this will be repaired immediately after the birth using dissolvable stitches. You should then be given advice on hygiene and self-help measures to reduce any subsequent pain, as well as information on follow-on pain relief.
The ventouse is a round plastic or metal cap that attaches by suction to your baby's scalp.
Your obstetrician or midwife will pull on the handle attached to the ventouse as you push through a contraction. Hopefully, this combined effort will help your baby be born.
Your baby's likely to have an area of swelling on their head for a short period of time, and may get a sort of blood blister, which will take longer to disappear. There may also be some grazing, but this too should go within a few days.
Ventouse is generally considered to be less painful and safer for women than forceps; plus, you may not require an episiotomy. But, if the ventouse delivery fails, your doctor may decide to try again using forceps.