Childbirth can be a wonderful experience for many women, but unfortunately this is not the case for all. Even in the best of cases, intervention may be required during labour, meaning action is taken by a midwife or doctor to intervene in the birthing process and assist delivery.
Whilst intervention by way of instrumental delivery may be considered common practice during labour, many women are not fully informed about what each procedure involves and are not able to give informed consent. This can result in procedures being performed and injury occurring to women in labour without their full understanding of the risks involved. It is vitally important that women know and understand the potential risks that can occur with intervention during labour.
Induced labour, forceps or vacuum extraction are the most commonly used forms of instrumental delivery to assist with childbirth.
Assisted Delivery / Instrumental Delivery
Assisted delivery, also called instrumental delivery, occurs when instruments such as forceps or vacuum (ventouse) are used to help deliver the baby. A doctor may use such instruments in cases where there is a concern for the baby’s heart rate, the baby is in an awkward position, or the women is too exhausted to continue.
Ventouse is an instrument that is attached to the baby’s head by suction. During contraction, while the women pushes, the obstetrician or midwife gently pulls the ventouse to help deliver the baby. This instrument is not used if birth occurs prior to 34 weeks pregnant as the baby’s head is too soft. It is also important to know that a ventouse is less likely to cause vaginal tearing than forceps.
Forceps are a smooth metal instrument that looks like large spoons or tongs and are curved to fit around the baby’s head. During a contraction the forceps are gently pulled to assist in the delivery of a baby.
Induced labour is a method of bringing on labour artificially instead of waiting for it to start naturally. Some common reasons for induced labour include multiple births, diabetes, kidney problems, high blood pressure and pregnancy lasting longer that 41 weeks. There are some risks associated with inducing labour including a reliance on forceps and/or ventouse and needing a caesarean section.
A caesarean section is a surgical procedure to deliver a baby through a cut in the abdomen and uterus. Common reasons for a caesarean can include the baby being in the wrong position, when there are twins, or if the women has previously had a caesarean.
While you may plan to have a caesarean, an emergency caesarean may be required to deliver the baby quickly. Whilst caesareans are a relatively common procedure, it is still a major surgery and complications can arise such as blood loss, clots, infection and damage to nearby organs such as the bladder.
Like every medical procedure, during labour it is important that women understand their options and are able to provide informed consent. Although last minute procedures may have to be undertaken due to unforeseen emergencies, it is vital that women discuss the options fully with their doctor or midwife before the birth of a child, to ensure they are fully informed about the risks involved with any of the procedures.