Sometimes, a baby's head doesn't move as expected through the birth canal. If this happens or your doctor feels that your baby needs to be born more quickly, a forceps or vacuum extraction delivery may be performed. This type of delivery is known as an operative vaginal delivery.
In a forceps delivery, the doctor slips the rounded forceps instrument around either side of your baby's head and uses light traction to deliver the baby. The procedure is usually performed during a contraction while you are pushing. Once your baby's head is crowned, the forceps are usually removed and the rest of the delivery proceeds normally. You will most likely require an episiotomy if you have a forceps delivery.
Like a forceps delivery, a vacuum extraction is a procedure in which you are assisted with the delivery of your baby. Your doctor places a soft, flexible cap around your baby's head and then applies slight traction to help extricate your baby from the birth canal.
Your doctor may decide to use an operative delivery if:
There is a slight risk of complications with both types of operative deliveries. Your doctor will explain these to you prior to the procedure so that you feel comfortable about the type of delivery assistance being used.