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Are birth injuries more prevalent during vacuum-assisted births?

Parents expecting the birth of a child are often worried about the risks of potential harm to their baby during childbirth. In an earlier blog post, we looked at four types of birth injuries that are commonly associated with vaginal delivery.

As previously discussed, the process of extracting an infant through the birth canal can sometimes lead to injuries to the child that can have lifelong consequences. Many of these injuries are associated with the method that doctors use to pull the baby out of its mother's birth canal using forceps or vacuum-assisted suction.

In 2005, a group of doctors with the University of California-San Francisco submitted a research paper to the National Institutes of Health that reviewed both forceps and vacuum-assisted delivery methods. The study looked at a group of 4,120 women who all gave birth through vaginal delivery at one hospital. The comprehensive study documented a wide range of statistical data including the mother's age, ethnicity, the child's birth weight, the attending physician, the duration of labor, types of anesthesia used and other pertinent information.

According to the report, 2,075 or 50.4 percent of the births were delivered using forceps. Another 2,045 or 49.6 percent of the women gave birth via vacuum-assisted delivery. The overall findings of the study indicated that babies born with the use of vacuum-assisted methods were more likely to experience shoulder dystocia and cephalohematoma (brain hemorrhage). Whereas, infants born using forceps delivery resulted in injuries to the mother more frequently in the form of third or fourth degree perennial lacerations (tearing of the skin between the vagina and rectum). The study suggests that doctors take these potential risks under consideration during delivery.

Texas residents should know that birth injuries such as Erb's palsy, Klumpke's palsy and other shoulder dystocia complications are often avoidable. If you suspect your child has suffered a birth injury due to a doctor's error, you may be entitled to sue the responsible party to recover your child's medical expenses.

Source: U.S. National Library of Medicine, "Forceps compared with vacuum: rates of neonatal and maternal morbidity." Caughey, AB, Oct. 29, 2014

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