What Types of Birth Injuries Can Forceps Cause?

Complications are relatively common during labor and delivery. Giving birth looks different for every woman. During some vaginal childbirths, the health care provider may need to use forceps to assist with the delivery. A forceps delivery uses an obstetrical instrument shaped like pliers with cups or spoons on the ends to grip the head of the baby and guide it safely through the birth canal. Unsafe or improper use of forceps by a physician could cause the infant a severe head or brain injury.


What Is the Proper Use of Forceps?

Forceps can be useful and life-saving when used correctly. It is possible for a health care provider to properly use forceps during a difficult birth to assist with the delivery without causing an injury. The correct and accepted use of forceps involves using a safe and appropriate amount of pressure when gripping the baby’s head.

A doctor should only use forceps under certain conditions, such as when pushing is not working, the cervix is fully dilated and the baby is in the birth canal headfirst. If these obstetric indications are present, the physician can use forceps and/or a vacuum extraction pump to assist with the birth. The most common situations that lead to the use of forceps are prolonged labor, maternal fatigue and fetal distress.


Complications and Injuries From Forceps During Birth

Forceps-related injuries can arise when a doctor fails to use this instrument correctly. If a doctor used forceps when another reasonable and prudent physician would have used a different treatment (e.g. an emergency cesarean section), for example, the doctor may be guilty of medical malpractice. If a mother brings a claim against a doctor for the misuse of forceps, the doctor will have to prove the reasonableness of his or her choice to use this tool. The misuse of forceps could inflict many traumatic injuries on an infant.

  • Head trauma
  • Hematoma (buildup of fluid around the brain)
  • Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
  • Skull fracture
  • Traumatic brain damage
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Neck injury
  • Facial injuries or paralysis
  • Nerve damage
  • Wrongful death

The correct use of forceps involves confirming it is a reasonable time and place to use them, clamping the forceps on the right part of the infant, applying the correct amount of pressure, and carefully twisting the baby into the correct position. The doctor should monitor the infant’s vital signs during the use of forceps. Using forceps incorrectly or carelessly could inflict life-threatening and even fatal injuries on a child. Twisting the baby’s spine in the wrong way, for example, could cause a traumatic spinal cord injury, while clamping too hard could fracture the baby’s skull.

Do You Have a Medical Malpractice Claim?

A birth injury from forceps could be medical malpractice if another health care provider would not have caused the same injury under similar circumstances. If a reasonable and prudent provider would have used a different approach to address a birth complication, the doctor could be liable for the child’s injury for incorrectly choosing forceps. The doctor could also be liable for using the forceps negligently or incorrectly even if the situation warranted the use of forceps.

  1. A duty of care between the patient and the defendant.
  2. The defendant’s breach or failure to fulfill the duty of care.
  3. A connection between the defendant’s breach and the infant’s forceps injury.
  4. Compensable damages suffered due to the incorrect use of forceps.

You might have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim in Kansas City if you or your Kansas City birth injury attorney can prove these four elements are more likely to be true than untrue. A lawyer can help you collect evidence proving these elements of care, such as medical records and statements from witnesses who were in the delivery room. Your lawyer can also hire birth injury experts to testify during your claim, if necessary. A successful claim with assistance from an attorney could pay your family for your child’s pain and suffering, medical bills, special education, disability accommodations, and more after a forceps injury.


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