The birth of a child is a wondrous event, but it can be adversely affected by a difficult delivery. If labor was prolonged or the mother was struggling with the delivery, a doctor may have decided to use obstetric forceps to assist the delivery. Forceps resemble barbecue tongs with curved cups on the ends. The cups are designed to grip the baby’s exposed head to allow the doctor to guide the baby through the birth canal.
If used correctly, forceps should not have negative consequences for the mother or child. However, when improperly used, forceps can cause significant harm to both the mother and newborn. If you or your child has suffered an injury caused by the negligent use of forceps, call an experienced Maryland attorney for birth injuries caused by obstetric forceps. Contact the Law Offices of Randolph Rice at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case consultation.
When Are Forceps Supposed to Be Used During a Delivery?
Using obstetric forceps to assist a difficult delivery is recommended only in limited circumstances. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has listed a set of preconditions and specific circumstances for when the use of forceps is appropriate.
Before obstetric forceps are recommended, several conditions must be present. First, the delivery must be difficult enough that the mother is unable to push the baby through the birth canal. Additionally, the membranes must have already ruptured, the cervix must be fully dilated, and the baby must have entered the birth canal headfirst.
Even if all of the above conditions are present, the ACOG only recommends obstetric forceps under certain specific circumstances. For instance, forceps may be appropriate if it is a prolonged labor. Prolonged labor normally means that normal pushing during the second phase of labor (from the fully dilated cervix to delivery) results in no progress after three hours. Also, if there are signs of fetal distress, such as a low heart rate, a doctor may reasonably use obstetric forceps to assist the delivery if it would be faster than an emergency C-section. And finally, in cases of maternal fatigue, when the mother is either physically exhausted or affected by medication, a doctor may use forceps to help facilitate delivery.
If none of these circumstances are present, the use of obstetric forceps may constitute medical malpractice.
Medical Negligence in Obstetric Forceps Assisted Deliveries
There are a limited number of circumstances when the use of obstetric forceps is appropriate. However, in several instances, the use of forceps is not only “not recommended,” but it is also irresponsible. In these situations, an emergency cesarean section is typically less risky to the mother and newborn and would be preferred.
Using forceps to assist delivery can be negligent depending upon the baby’s position or the location of its head. For example, if the baby’s head has not reached the midway part of the birth canal or if the baby is in a breech position, obstetric forceps should not be used.
A baby may also have a medical condition that makes the use of forceps inappropriate. For example, a bleeding disorder, such as hemophilia, or a condition that weakens the baby’s bones, such as osteogenesis imperfecta, would present circumstances where the use of forceps would be improper. Furthermore, forceps should not be used if the baby is too large to fit through the pelvis.
The negligent use of forceps can significantly harm both the mother and the newborn child under these circumstances. If you or your child has been harmed by the irresponsible use of forceps contact a Maryland birth injury lawyer.
Birth Injuries Caused by the Improper Use of Forceps
Forceps-assisted deliveries can put a mother and child at risk. Vaginal deliveries generally have associated risks for the mother. However, these risks and the potential injuries associated with them are increased by the improper use of forceps during delivery. Some of the injuries a mother can suffer due to the negligent use of obstetric forceps include the following:
- Pain in the perineum
- Tearing of the lower genital tract
- Difficulty urinating
- Short-term or long-term urinary or fecal incontinence
- Injured bladder or urethra
- Uterine rupture
- Weakening of the muscles and ligaments supporting the pelvic organs
The newborn child also faces risks of injury from the improper use of obstetric forceps, including the following:
- Minor external eye trauma
- Skull fractures
- Bleeding within the skull
- Nerve damage
- Facial palsy
- Facial injuries
- Brachial plexus injuries
- Brain damage
- Cerebral palsy
- Spinal cord damage
In some circumstances, the injury from the improper use of forceps could be severe enough to cause the death of the mother or the newborn.
Obstetric Forceps and Medical Malpractice in Maryland
Luckily, the number of forceps assisted deliveries is decreasing. When confronted with a challenging birth, doctors are turning to alternatives, such as vacuum extractors or C-sections. However, based on their preference and experience, some doctors still decide to use forceps unnecessarily when faced with a difficult delivery. If a doctor used forceps and none of the necessary conditions existed, or if the circumstances present made the use of forceps unreasonably risky, the doctor may be liable for any resulting injuries.
Call Our Maryland Attorney for Birth Injuries Caused by Forceps for a Free Consultation
If you or your child has suffered an injury from the improper or inappropriate use of obstetric forceps, you need to contact a Maryland attorney for birth injuries caused by forceps to help determine if your doctor is liable for medical malpractice. The experienced lawyers at the Law Office of Randolph Rice have the resources and knowledge to help determine if you have a valid medical malpractice claim. Call (410) 694-7291 to schedule a free case consultation.