In most cases, births flow smoothly and without any complications. When difficulties and complications arise, medical professionals utilize tools, like forceps, to assist in delivering babies. These tools can be extremely helpful in easing babies through the birthing canal. When forceps are not used correctly, devastating injuries can occur to both the baby and the mother. Every year, a large number of babies suffer from forceps delivery injuries as a result of negligent medical professionals. Babies who endure head and brain trauma from the improper use of birthing tools often require life-long extensive medical treatment.
In some cases, those afflicted by these horrific injuries are left with permanent disabilities. Not only are babies and their families overwhelmed by the mental and physical consequences, but the financial suffering is nearly unbearable. When babies suffer from forceps delivery injuries, it is imperative that their families reach out to a birth injury attorney as soon as possible to protect their legal rights.
Our medical malpractice attorneys at The Malpractice Group are all too aware of the challenges families face after babies suffer birth injuries. When babies are harmed as a result of negligence, our attorneys fight to help families protect their legal rights. Our birth trauma attorneys strive to help families obtain the maximum amount of compensation attainable for medical treatment, pain and suffering, and various other damages they face. If your baby suffered forceps delivery injuries and you believe they were caused by medical negligence, contact our law firm at your earliest convenience to explore legal options available for you.
What are Forceps?
Though we would like all births to occur without any complications, there are instances where the baby simply will not come out on its own. When this happens, doctors have many options available to them to assist the baby and help ease it out. One such option many doctors utilize is forceps.
Forceps are a medical instrument that resembles a large pair of tongs. This tool can be used to help pull the baby out of the birth canal during difficult births. Developed in the 1600s, forceps were proven effective in helping doctors avoid infant deaths when all previous approaches failed. Early on, doctors and nurses utilized forceps in secrecy and would only use them in empty rooms while mothers were blindfolded. These instruments were known to cause traumatic injuries, which prompted an overhaul to their design in the 1800s. Before the implementation of the C-section, Tarnier forceps were the most widely used system in the world.
Types of Forceps Deliveries
There are four different types of forceps deliveries that can be used. These classifications are determined by how high up the baby’s head is in the birth canal. These different classifications include:
- Outlet Forceps: Outlet forceps deliveries occur when the baby’s head can be seen between contractions without the need to separate the labia. At this stage, the baby’s head has reached the pelvic floor. Outlet forceps deliveries are generally performed without any complications and present the least risk for patients.
- Low Forceps: Low forceps deliveries occur when the baby’s head has not quite reached the pelvic floor. Instead, it is positioned at +2 station or lower.
- Mid Forceps: Mid forceps deliveries occur when the baby’s head is above the +2 station. Generally, the baby’s head will be engaged in the mother’s pelvis. When a baby is in this position, many residency programs will opt for a C-section rather than attempting a forceps delivery.
- High Forceps: High forceps deliveries occur when the baby’s head is not engaged in the pelvis at all. It is important to note that high forceps deliveries are no longer performed in modern obstetrics. Doctors will generally opt for a C-section rather than attempting to deliver in this manner.
Each level presents its own set of challenges for doctors and babies. Delivery using forceps requires skill and experience. When babies sustain forceps delivery injuries, it is crucial that their families reach out to an aggressive medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. Those harmed may be entitled to compensation to help alleviate the financial burdens they face.
How to Know when Forceps May Be Needed
Challenges during labor and delivery can be overwhelming for both doctors and expecting parents. When the baby does not proceed through the birth canal as it should, doctors consider various factors to determine whether forceps should be used to assist with the birth.
There are several material factors that can indicate when the use of forceps may be necessary:
- When the mother shows signs of exhaustion
- Prolonged stages of labor causing distress
- When the mother has heart disease, blood pressure problems, preeclampsia, aneurysms, or other illnesses and health factors that increase the risks associated with pushing
- When the mother experiences massive blood loss
- When the drugs or other analgesics inhibit the mother’s ability to push
In addition to the mother exhibiting factors that may prompt the use of forceps, there are fetal factors that can be taken into consideration as well. When non-reassuring fetal heart tracing is present, and if the baby is coming head in breech delivery, forceps may help ease the transition in a stress-free way.
When the baby is in a straight line with the head entering first into the pelvic area, forceps can be helpful for delivering the baby without having to perform a C-section. In addition to taking individual circumstances into consideration, it is crucial to confirm that the necessary prerequisites are in place as well. According to medical standards, the following circumstances must be confirmed before forceps delivery is possible:
- The baby’s head must be engaged for the delivery
- The membranes must be ruptured
- The cervix must be fully dilated
- The fetal presentation, lie, and position, as well as any tilting of the head, must be known and/or confirmed by ultrasound
- The fetal size must show adequate dimensions
- The mother’s bladder must be completely empty
- The physician must have experience and be skilled in using forceps for delivery
- The mother must have a satisfactory amount of anesthesia for the procedure
- The doctor must have fully explained all of the risks associated with the procedure to the mother
- The mother and physician must be willing to abandon attempts and resort to a C-section if the forceps are not successful
If doctors fail to recognize the signs of distress presented by the mother or the child or they fail to ensure all prerequisites are met, they can be held liable for any resulting injuries or damages to a mother or her child.
Factors to Consider Surrounding Forceps Use
Although the use of forceps can be extremely beneficial during difficult births, it is crucial that they are used appropriately and responsibly only by medical professionals. It is imperative that doctors and nurses consider the use of forceps on a case by case basis. This is due to the fact that there are several situations in which they should never be used. Certain circumstances increase the risk of irreversible damages if forceps are used in birth. These situations include, but are not limited to:
- When the baby is less than 34 weeks in gestation
- When the baby’s head is too large to pass through the mother’s pelvis – cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD)
- Cases where fetal demineralization disease is present
- Cases where babies suffer from connective tissue disorders
- Instances where fetal bleeding diathesis are present
In addition to the circumstances listed above, doctors should never use forceps when another delivery instrument has been used. Reports from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) state that a medical professional should never utilize more than one tool while delivering a baby. If they are unable to deliver the baby with either forceps or a vacuum extractor, they must immediately move to a C-section delivery. The use of multiple tools drastically increases the possibility of complications and injuries. If your child suffered a forceps delivery injury, it is imperative that you contact a birth injury attorney as soon as possible to explore legal options available for you.
Complications Surrounding the Use of Forceps in Labor
Birth injuries can occur for a plethora of reasons. Alas, the improper use of forceps can leave babies with life-changing injuries. In many cases, babies require long-term treatment, therapy, and medical equipment. Considering how forceps are used during the birthing process, it is no surprise that many babies suffer injuries to the head, neck, and upper body areas. Some of the most common injuries and complications associated with forceps delivery injuries include:
- Brain damage
- Skull fractures
- Bruises or lacerations to the baby’s head
- Spinal cord injuries
- Nerve damage (from forceps used during birth) to the side of a baby’s face which can cause facial nerve palsy
- Trauma to the head and face
- Intracranial hemorrhages
- Retinal hemorrhages
- Brachial plexus injuries like Erb’s palsy
- Brain bleeds or hemorrhages
Not only are there distinct risks involved with forceps deliveries for the baby, but the mother may experience complications as well. Some of the forceps delivery injuries mothers can experience include:
- Injuries or pain conditions to the perineum
- Tearing or wounds in the lower genital tract area
- Short or long-term bowel incontinence
- Injuries to the urethra
- Injuries to the bladder
- Urinary tract disorders
- Anemia due to heavy blood loss
- Weakened pelvic organ muscles or ligaments
All of these injuries can be significant. In fact, injuries like brain bleeds have a 20% mortality rate and are most likely to occur with excessive force and the prolonged use of forceps. Forceps nerve damage can require extensive medical treatment to recover from and result in permanent injuries. When babies survive these traumatic injuries, they often require medical treatment that can last for the rest of their lives. If your child suffered forceps assisted birth injuries, it is crucial that you contact a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible.
Forceps Delivery Injuries and Malpractice
For hundreds of years, forceps have been used to assist during difficult deliveries. As it was considered extremely controversial early on, the dangers associated with the use of forceps have always been known. Although there is a heightened risk of injuries to babies and mothers as a result of forceps deliveries, it is important to recognize that not every injury or damage sustained by a mother or her child qualifies as negligence. In order to file a successful forceps delivery lawsuit, plaintiffs must be able to prove that malpractice occurred and, as a result, they suffered injuries and damages directly caused by said malpractice.
Simply being unhappy with the general performances during the delivery process is not enough to succeed with a lawsuit. Instead, mothers must be able to prove that they suffered injuries and damages as a result of a medical professional deviating from the acceptable standard of care. To prove that negligence occurred during a forceps delivery, victims must clearly demonstrate:
- The doctor or nurse made an error in judgment or in practice that another professional with a similar background would not have made in the same situation
- The error caused the mother or their child to suffer harm
- The harm that was suffered by the mother or child resulted in pain and suffering or had fatal consequences
Medical professionals can be held liable for injuries and damages in circumstances where they failed to correctly identify warning signs that indicate the use of forceps would cause harm to a mother or their child. Some examples of negligence surrounding forceps delivery injuries include:
- The use of forceps before the head is engaged which can have fatal consequences for the child and seriously injure the mother
- The use of forceps for delivery when the baby is in a breech position
- The use of forceps for delivery when the baby is in a transverse lie
- Causing painful lacerations by using forceps before the mother’s cervix was fully dilated
- When medical professionals fail to secure a firm grip on the child’s head
- When the medical professional tries to use forceps in situations where the baby’s head is too big
If you or your child suffered forceps delivery injuries due to the reckless and negligent actions of medical professionals, you might be entitled to compensation.
The Malpractice Group Can Help You
Babies impacted by forceps delivery injuries often deal with overwhelming pain and suffering. An innumerable amount of victims are left permanently impaired. Many babies require medical treatment indefinitely. The impacts families endure as a result of these injuries are often stacking. When babies suffer these life-altering injuries as a result of reckless and negligent medical professionals, it is crucial that families reach out to a competent legal team as soon as possible to protect their legal rights.
Our knowledgeable medical malpractice attorneys at The Malpractice Group thoroughly understand forceps injury lawsuits and how they can help victims get the justice they deserve. Our attorneys work diligently to help families impacted by forceps delivery injuries recover the maximum amount of compensation available for their claims. We understand the challenges families face, which is why we are dedicated to helping individuals harmed with forceps delivery injuries move forward with their recovery as comfortably and confidently as possible. Contact our birth injury attorneys at (312) 561-4324 to explore legal options available to you.