Birth Injuries: Forceps Delivery

If your baby suffered nerve damage or other traumatic injuries from a forceps delivery, we recommend you talk to a birth injury litigation attorney at the Kocian Law Group.

In some cases, forceps are used to extract a baby during a difficult delivery. Forceps are metal tongs that are placed on the baby’s head to apply a pulling pressure to extract the baby. Forceps are often used in cases involving a large baby, breech position, or in a prolonged labor situation. They can be used if the baby is in fetal distress, if the mother is having trouble pushing, or if the positioning of the baby in the birth canal is incorrect.

If used improperly by medical staff, forceps can cause injury during the delivery process. For example, forceps applied improperly so they cover the baby’s eye or eyes can result in serious disabling eye injuries. One common forceps injury to the eye is a rupture of the Descemet’s membrane in the cornea. Descemet’s membrane is thin at birth and may stretch or tear if forceps are applied over the baby’s eye or eyes during delivery. This can be prevented if the medical provider applies the forceps only after determining the position of the baby’s head by feeling the baby’s ears. A tear of the Descemet’s membrane can cause serious and lasting eye injuries which may require surgery. Eye injuries are especially disabling in the early years because they can lead to an arrest of normal development and inability to reach normal developmental milestones.

Other forceps delivery injuries include skull fractures and brain injuries, lacerations to the face and upper body, brachial plexus injuries, and nerve damage to the face. Such injuries can often require lifelong care and expensive medical equipment or assistive devices. Injuries can result from placing too much pressure on the infant’s head with the forceps; such injuries may include swelling of the scalp, blood clots, severe bruising, and Erb’s palsy.

The most common risk associated with forceps delivery is shoulder dystocia. This is a condition in which the shoulders of the baby are obstructed by the maternal pelvis, and injury results when the baby is pulled too strongly. Use of extraction devices such as forceps increases the risk of shoulder dystocia. Prolonged labor that is terminated in the second stage by forceps extraction puts the baby at increased risk for shoulder dystocia. If the baby’s head appears and then retracts, this is an indication of shoulder dystocia – an obstetrical emergency.

Forceps injuries can also result in maternal injuries. Such injuries may include rupture of the uterus, cuts into the uterus, bladder injury and wounds on the cervix, vaginal tear, perineal tear, or further tearing during an episiotomy. The maternal lacerations can have lasting effects, including displacement of female reproductive organs, urinary incontinence, and the potential for complicated future pregnancies due to early dilation.

If you or your child suffer serious injuries during a forceps delivery, contact the experienced birth trauma attorneys at the Kocian Law Group as soon as possible. Delay in investigating such cases can often compromise or eliminate your legal rights and the rights of your child.