Forceps Delivery: Advantages, Possibilities, And Risks

A forceps delivery is also called a forceps or forceps delivery. The technical term for the birth pole is forceps. It is composed of two metal spoons connected together, which are used to pull the baby out of the birth canal.

Thus, as part of the birthing process, the gynecologist very carefully grips the forceps around the baby’s head to pull it out of the woman’s vagina. An alternative to forceps birth is suction cup birth.

Both are what is known as a vaginal surgical birth procedure. Both the suction cup birth and the forceps birth are a part of surgical obstetrics, but they can only be performed under certain conditions.

Prerequisites And Risks Of Forceps Delivery

After a thorough examination, the physician selects the appropriate forceps and separates them into two individual parts. He inserts these segments one after the other into the vagina of the woman giving birth.

It is important that the forceps are positioned so that they fit like two hands around the head of the unborn child. If this is the case, the doctor can connect the two parts of the forceps.

He then performs a test pull to check the actual fit of the metal spoons. At the same time, he finds out whether the baby can be pulled out of the vagina during the subsequent pull. Under certain circumstances, it is necessary to perform an episiotomy.

Forceps Delivery As An Essential Part Of Modern Obstetrics

Once the trial pull has taken place, the most important step can be initiated: Forceps are used to pull the baby through the birth canal and then “see the light of day”.

As soon as the baby’s head protrudes from the vagina, the forceps can be removed. The rest of the newborn’s body then emerges as in a normal birth.

What seems so simple and uncomplicated at first glance is associated with sometimes considerable risks for both the woman giving birth and the child. In this article, you will learn about the advantages of forceps delivery and what distinguishes it from a suction cup birth.

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Forceps Birth Vs. Suction Cup Birth

Shortly before birth, it often becomes apparent that a normal process cannot take place, making obstetric assistance essential. About eight to 10 percent of all cases require obstetric assistance.

This means that the use of a forceps or a suction cup is required to speed up a birth process and bring the baby into the world in a healthy way. The term “obstetric assistance” is referred to in professional circles as vaginal operative birth. Forceps, on the other hand, is sometimes called “big sugar forceps”.

It does not matter what type of birth forceps it is. The suction cup or vacuum extractor consists of a round-shaped cup, which is connected to a powerful vacuum pump.

It also has a pull handle that can be used to pull the baby’s head out of the vagina during the birthing process. The cup of the suction cup is placed on the upper part of the head and fixed towards the back of the head. Just as forceps are available in different types, there are also several types of suction cups.

The Different Models Of The Suction Cup

The Suction Cup With Metal Shell

It is characterized by a firm fit and a high grip. It does not slip off, but can sometimes seriously injure the child’s highly sensitive scalp.

The Suction Cup With Soft Plastic Shell

It is gently fixed to the child’s head. This rather light pressure can keep the risk of injury as low as possible. However, it has the disadvantage that it can easily slip off and must therefore be put on several times.

The Suction Cup In The Medium-hard – Relatively Rigid Version

Models of this type fit tightly, do not slip and at the same time are relatively gentle on the baby’s head.


Which variant is used for the birth in each case depends on various factors. Among other things, the birth process, birth position and the position of the baby play a role.

The Suction Cup Is Used In These Situations

If the birth comes to a standstill or if the baby is in danger during pressing, action is required. Thus, in such moments, the doctor often decides to perform a forceps delivery or to apply the suction cup so that a suction cup birth occurs.

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A suction cup birth or forceps birth is also appropriate when the birthing woman is tired and unable to push adequately due to lack of strength and exhaustion.

In some situations, it is apparent that the unborn baby, despite the utmost effort of its mother, is not making progress in the birth canal. This can pose significant risks to the baby, as the fetal brain may no longer be adequately supplied with oxygen.

If the baby is stuck or if the path through the birthing woman’s pelvis is difficult for the child to negotiate, a suction cup birth or forceps birth is also essential in this case.

Even if a forceps or a suction cup cannot generally be used if the baby is in breech or breech presentation, there are certainly exceptions. If the baby’s body is already born, but difficulties occur in the head area, forceps is usually applied as well.


It is important under certain medical reasons that the mother does not push too hard or for too long in order to speed up the birth. One aspect in this regard is a heart problem, among others, which makes too much effort an additional physical strain.

Every birth is accompanied by certain risks for both the pregnant woman and the child. Certainly, the medical conditions have nevertheless improved extremely until today.

Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that even in the Western world, serious complications can occur from time to time because of possible mistakes made before or during birth.

Therefore, it is an advantage for expectant parents and their offspring in any case that the possibilities of obstetrics exist. However, it is also a fact that every forceps birth and every suction cup birth can be associated with additional dangers for mother and child.

The Course Of A Forceps Delivery

The birth does not go as planned. Thus, in some cases, the doctor decides that a forceps birth must be used. If he or she decides to use forceps, another examination of the woman’s abdomen is performed and her general condition is examined.

The baby’s vital signs will also be checked in the course of this. If the medical conditions for forceps delivery are met, the doctor will immediately initiate it.

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However, experience has shown that a suction cup is far less painful and risky for the woman compared to forceps. The possibility that intestinal functions and/or the bladder of the woman giving birth may be damaged by the use of forceps is definitely present and can never be completely ruled out.

If a forceps delivery is performed, it is also necessary from a medical point of view that an episiotomy is placed. This enlarges the birth canal and makes it easier for the baby to pass through.

It also makes it easier for the medical professional to slide the forceps into the vagina to place the two metal spoons around the baby’s head. Once the forceps are positioned in the right place, the doctor gently and carefully pulls on the handle device.

He will wait for the next contraction to help your baby pass through the birth canal. If your baby is not yet moving with each pull, the doctor and midwife may decide to perform a cesarean section. The same is the case if it turns out that the baby has not yet seen the light of day with forceps, even after several contractions.

Important To Know

In general, a forceps birth is more painful and risky than a suction cup birth. However, you will receive local anesthesia, depending on your physical constitution. In most cases, local anesthesia is not administered for a suction-cup birth.

Statistics show that the use of a forceps, unlike a suction cup, has a much higher success rate. On the other hand, the risk of injuring the baby’s head or damaging the woman’s pelvic floor is relatively high. For these reasons, a forceps delivery is relatively rarely performed compared to a suction cup delivery.

Suction Cup Birth – Here’s How It Works

A vacuum cup birth is easier to perform than a forceps birth. If during the birth it turns out that the baby is “stuck” or that other complications have arisen, the use of the suction cup is essential.

In this case, the cup of the suction cup is placed in the upper part of the head. To do this, it is necessary to reach deep into the vagina with the appropriate instruments.

Either the gynecologist or the professionally qualified midwife then places the cup shell and applies suction using a vacuum pump. The resulting pressure is precisely controlled and monitored with eagle eyes. The air is sucked out, which is usually associated with a rather loud noise. So don’t be alarmed – this is quite normal.

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As soon as the cup of the suction cup is in the right position, the attending physician waits for the next contraction. Then it is time for you to push firmly. Meanwhile, the doctor pulls on the cup to help your baby move out of the birth canal.

Normally, the baby should move forward a bit with each pull of the suction cup. However, if there is no progress even after the third contraction, the suction cup will be discontinued and other measures will be explored to successfully complete the birth.

If necessary, forceps may be used in these circumstances. If this also fails, the medical team usually decides to perform a cesarean section.

The Risks Of Forceps Delivery

When forceps are used to advance the birth, there may be certain health risks associated with it. Usually, mild redness of the skin on the baby’s head will show up as soon as he or she sees the light of day.

Abrasions are also often visible, but they heal after only a few days. In addition, a slight, unilateral paralysis of the face is possible. This is called facial paresis.

It results from the violent compression of the facial nerve by the birth forceps. In most cases, however, this is no cause for concern, because the paralysis is usually a thing of the past after just a few weeks.

If an episiotomy is not performed during forceps delivery, a perineal tear or vaginal tear may occur. A tear of the uterus or cervix is also possible. Sometimes bruising as well as bruising on the newborn’s head also shows up.


Forceps delivery can be a life-saving alternative to normal birth. Before each forceps birth, as before each suction cup birth, you as the expectant mother will be explicitly informed by the doctor. In this way, you will learn everything about the procedure, but also about any risks and, in particular, about the advantages that a forceps delivery offers you and your child.


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