Forceps are a tong-shaped tool commonly used to assist with the vaginal birth of an infant. Although there’s a high risk of birth injury, many doctors continue to use forceps during birth. If your infant suffered a birth injury and forceps were involved in the delivery, a birth injury attorney can help identify whether your case qualifies for birth injury compensation.

Birth injuries are often the result of avoidable mistakes by the labor and delivery team. If you or your child was harmed by the use of forceps during birth, your first step should be to ascertain whether your family has been the victim of medical malpractice.

Why Doctors Might Use Forceps During Childbirth

Doctors make use of a variety of tools to assist in vaginal deliveries. However, some of these tools bring greater risks than others. Some doctors today prefer to avoid using tools like a vacuum and forceps during birth, as there’s a greater chance of injuring the infant. However, many doctors continue to rely on forceps despite the known risks.

Common situations in which relying on forceps is considered to be a reasonable medical decision include:

  • The infant shows signs of distress while in the birth canal
  • The infant’s head is pressed back against its back (face presentation)
  • The mother is too exhausted to continue
  • The mother is facing certain health conditions
  • Multiple births
  • Premature births

Forceps should only be used when the mother is in the later stages of delivery, and there are legitimate health concerns for allowing the labor to continue. Forceps should never be used when the infant can’t fit, has an unknown position, appears with arms or shoulders first, has a known bleeding disorder, or has other health issues that could increase the risk of a forceps injury.

Injuries and Complications From Using Forceps

Using forceps during birth brings several serious health risks for the infant and the mother. The most significant concern with forceps is the potential to cause permanent brain damage.

Forceps can effectively help to quickly end a difficult or risky delivery. However, even when used correctly, there’s always a risk of damaging the delicate brain, skull, or face of the infant. When forceps are used incorrectly, there's a much higher risk of other serious complications, such as shoulder dystocia.

Skull Fractures

A skull fracture occurs when the pressure from the metal forceps causes the bones of an infant’s skull to break. When a skull fracture is minor, the child may be able to fully recover. However, more serious fractures can cause life-threatening or long-term damage. Brain bleeding and brain damage are two possible outcomes of a serious skull fracture.

Brain Damage

Brain damage is one of the most serious risks associated with the use of forceps. A skull fracture can lead to brain damage, but pressure from the forceps alone is enough to result in brain damage, even if the infant’s skull isn’t harmed. Brain damage during birth can cause lifelong disabilities and is often linked to the development of cerebral palsy.

Shoulder Dystocia

Shoulder dystocia occurs when the baby’s head has exited in the birth canal, but an arm or shoulder is lodged behind the pubic bone. Attempting to pull the infant out of the birth canal with forceps brings a high risk of injuring a central nerve bundle called the brachial plexus. This sort of injury to the baby often results in the development of Erb’s palsy.

Other Complications

Depending on the infant’s position and how the forceps were used, there’s a risk of additional complications associated with forceps-assisted births. Some of these include:

  • Intracranial hematoma
  • Seizures
  • Facial scarring
  • Facial palsy
  • Injuries to the mother

Whenever forceps are used during birth and an injury results, it’s a good idea to consult a birth injury attorney.

Legal Options for Families Affected by Forceps-Related Birth Injuries

Forceps-related birth injuries can lead to serious and costly lifelong medical conditions. Even in cases where a full recovery is possible, treatment for birth injuries caused by forceps often incurs extensive medical costs for the family.

Avoidable birth injuries often constitute medical malpractice. You can consult a birth injury lawyer to learn whether you have grounds for a medical malpractice claim. If you have grounds for a claim, a lawyer can help you seek compensation through the doctor's or hospital's insurance policy. If an insurance claim is denied, an attorney can file a medical malpractice lawsuit on your behalf.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to commonly asked questions about forceps injuries.

How Long Can It Take to Diagnose a Forceps-Related Birth Injury?

Forceps injuries are often diagnosed immediately. However, some conditions, like brain damage, might not be immediately observable. If your child fails to meet developmental milestones, you should ask your pediatrician to check for signs of a forceps injury.

Are Forceps Injuries Treatable?

Some forceps injuries are treatable and can end in a full recovery. Others, like brain damage, can result in significant permanent damage.

What Injuries Can Forceps Cause for the Mother?

Common forceps injuries to the mother include uterine rupture, vaginal tears, blood loss, and bladder or urinary tract damage.

How Much Compensation Can a Birth Injury Attorney Recover?

Birth injury compensation depends on the cost of medical care and the infant’s long-term prognosis. In cases that involve permanent injury, compensation can help cover the lifelong costs of care the injury will incur.

Did Your Doctor Use Forceps During Birth? Consult a Birth Injury Attorney

Ratzan Weissman & Boldt is known nationally as a leader in recovering birth injury compensation. Our firm is located in Miami, Florida, but we accept cases nationwide. We operate as a boutique personal injury firm and hand-select our caseload. We’re known for recovering record-breaking verdicts and settlement amounts in medical malpractice.

Contact Ratzan Weissman & Boldt to learn whether our firm can help you recover birth injury compensation after a forceps-assisted birth.