BIRTH INJURY: VACUUM EXTRACTION

Welcoming a child is a life-changing experience. Parents usually spent months preparing a nursery and choosing names. Many first-time moms also take childbirth classes to prepare themselves for the delivery.

Giving birth is a natural process. Although millions of babies arrive each year without complications, some moms and babies need medical intervention during delivery. A vacuum-assisted delivery can protect the health of the mother and save the baby’s life; however, vacuum extraction complications can cause short-term and long-term medical issues for the mom and baby.

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Vacuum Extraction

Vacuum extraction entails using an extractor device to assist with a complicated delivery. Statista reports that medical professionals used vacuum extraction in 2.5% of births in 2018, 2019, and 2020. 

What are vacuum extractors?

A vacuum extractor is a medical device with a ventouse, or suction cup, connected to a mechanical or electrical suction device. Cups can be made of hard or soft plastic or metal and may have a bell or mushroom design.

  • Bell-shaped cups are the widest at the opening that attaches to the baby’s head.
  • Mushroom-shaped cups narrow at the opening and then widen before narrowing again.

A tube connects the suction cup to the vacuum pump, which has a gauge to monitor pressure when in use.

Why are vacuum extractors used in delivery?

baby getting heart rate checked by doctor

Vacuum extractors provide traction and help the baby pass through the birth canal. The vacuum extractor helps expedite the delivery while allowing a vaginal birth. Some reasons medical professionals recommend vacuum extraction include the following:

  • Awkward positioning of the baby
  • Baby’s heart rate is unstable
  • Fetal distress
  • Mother can’t push because of health issue
  • Mother is exhausted
  • Labor has stalled

What is delivery by vacuum extraction?

The obstetrician or midwife attaches the suction cup to the baby’s head. Depending on the medical professional’s preferences and the infant’s position, a bell- or mushroom-shaped cup may be used. The obstetrician or midwife uses the vacuum pump to pull the baby gently when the person delivering the baby has a contraction.

Are vacuum extractions safe?

The concept of vacuum extraction dates back to the 1700s, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that vacuum extractors became standard medical tools for complicated deliveries. Although millions of births over the last seven decades have involved vacuum extractors, there are risks of vacuum delivery.

Vacuum delivery complications can affect the mother or the baby. Some complications are short-term side effects, while others are long-term health problems stemming from vacuum extraction.

Reasons for complications with vacuum extractions include:

  • Too much suction
  • Cup detaches from the baby’s head
  • Vaginal tissue is caught in the cup

Vacuum extractions should only be used under specific conditions. Vacuum extractors should not be used for premature babies. Medical experts must also ensure the baby is low in the birth canal before using a vacuum extractor.

Side Effects of Vacuum Extraction

Side effects affecting the baby after vacuum extraction include:

  • Bleeding beneath scalp
  • Brain bleeds
  • Bruised, swollen, or misshaped head
  • Severe jaundice
  • Swollen head
  • Lacerations
  • Weakness on one side of the body

Side effects affecting the mother after vacuum extraction include:

  • Anemia
  • Blood clots
  • Incontinence
  • Vaginal tears

Types of Injuries Caused by Vacuum Extraction

Infants and mothers may suffer severe injuries, including long-term or permanent birth injuries, when a vacuum extractor’s used during delivery. Parents have grounds to pursue a medical malpractice case if there’s evidence that negligence or medical errors caused the vacuum extractor injuries.

Severe, long-term, or permanent health conditions suffered by infants during vacuum extractor deliveries include:

  • Bleeding disorder
  • Brain damage
  • Brachial plexus injuries
  • Cerebral palsy (CP)
  • Erb’s palsy
  • Facial nerve palsy
  • Hearing loss
  • Kernicterus
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Skull fractures
  • Stroke

Mothers may suffer a severe birth injury after a vacuum extraction. Severe, long-term, or permanent injuries may include:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • Infection
  • Infertility after uterine rupture
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Scarred perineum

Treatment for Vacuum Extraction Complications

The time needed to heal from vacuum extraction complications varies based on the nature of the complications. Mothers typically experience bleeding after a vacuum extraction delivery and can expect it to take up to six weeks to recover from typical side effects. Severe injuries may take months to heal, and some complications, such as pelvic organ prolapse, may require surgery.

It can take a baby’s head up to 14 days to round out after a vacuum extraction delivery, and it’s normal for babies to need 14 to 21 days to recover from jaundice. Severe injuries may take months of treatment or be permanent, life-altering injuries.

Alternatives to Vacuum Extraction

In some cases, medical professionals may use forceps instead of vacuum extractors. Forceps are a safer option for babies that haven’t reached 36 weeks.

Cesarean sections are another option for challenging deliveries. A C-section is the best option if the birth canal is narrow and the baby’s head won’t fit through.

lady birth injury lawyer sitting at her desk in front of a laptop

A life-altering injury claim seeks to give the claimant compensation for injuries that significantly impact a person’s life. A birth injury could alter your quality of life if you suffer chronic pain after a vacuum extraction delivery or need multiple surgeries to repair internal damage. Severe injuries could even cause infertility.

You may also have unexpected expenses stemming from long-term or permanent injuries to your child. Instead of struggling physically, mentally, and financially, you can turn to a birth injury attorney and file a birth injury lawsuit seeking financial compensation.

Contact our birth injury attorneys for a free case evaluation to discuss your options. When you hire our Colorado birth injury lawyers, you’ll get professional legal guidance and support from experienced attorneys who understand the trauma of coping with a birth injury. We’ll fight to get you the financial, medical, and expert help you need to address the challenges stemming from your vacuum extraction complications.

Sources

Ali, U. A., et al. (2009). Vacuum-Assisted Vaginal Delivery.

Knisley, K. (2020). Why Do Some Newborns Have Coneheads? (And Can It Be Fixed?).

Percentages of births delivered by forceps or vacuum extraction in the United States from 1990 to 2020. (2022).

Vacuum-Assisted Delivery: Care Instructions. (2021).

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