Forceps Delivery Complications

Quick Answer

Forceps are tools used to deliver babies in complicated or prolonged childbirths. This type of operative vaginal delivery may cause serious injury when done improperly. Forceps delivery complications can cause several types of birth injuries. Learn how to take action if your child suffered a birth injury from a forceps delivery.

Get a Free Case Review

What Is a Forceps Delivery?

A forceps delivery is an assisted delivery option during childbirth. Forceps are delivery tools that are shaped like large tongs or a pair of spoons to assist with prolonged or difficult vaginal labor.

Doctors will use forceps if a child is stuck in the birth canal and showing signs of fetal distress. They will then apply the forceps to the baby’s head to guide them out of the birth canal while the mother pushes during a contraction.

Several types of obstetrical forceps used during childbirth include:

  • Low cavity/mid-cavity forceps
  • Outlet forceps
  • Rotational forceps

Another common form of assisted delivery is vacuum extraction, which attaches a soft cup to the child’s head to pull them out of the birth canal. According to a study from St. Michael’s Hospital and Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, forceps are associated with less failure than vacuum extraction.

While many babies have been delivered using forceps without any complications, some babies and mothers have unfortunately suffered from injuries caused by complications. Many of these birth injuries could have been prevented and may be considered medical negligence.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 3% of children were delivered by forceps or vacuum extraction in 2013.

If you or your child suffered a birth injury from forceps delivery complications, contact us today to learn if you are eligible for financial compensation.

Nurse Beth Carter

Talk to A Nurse Now

Call or chat with a caring, experienced nurse right now — we’re standing by to get you help and answers.

When Are Forceps Used?

A forceps delivery is used to assist during a difficult or prolonged delivery. Doctors typically use forceps during the second stage of labor when the mother’s cervix is fully dilated and the child starts to make their way out of the birth canal.

A forceps delivery is typically used when:

  • The baby is showing signs of fetal distress such as a change in heart rate
  • The mother has health conditions such as high blood pressure or heart disease
  • The mother is pushing and labor is not progressing
  • The mother is too tired to keep pushing

The use of forceps can be beneficial in assisting with delivery when used correctly. When forceps are improperly used, forceps may cause birth injuries to both the mother and baby.

A forceps delivery should not be used when:

  • The baby is unable to fit through the mother’s pelvis
  • The baby has a bleeding disorder or a condition causing weakened bones
  • The baby’s head is not at the midpoint of the birth canal
  • The baby’s arms or shoulders are leading the way out of the birth canal
  • The position of the baby’s head is unknown

Medical professionals can prevent forceps delivery complications and birth injuries by knowing the causes and risk of injury and when not to use this type of assisted vaginal delivery. If you or your baby were hurt by forceps during delivery, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the negligent medical professional.

Birth Injuries Caused by Forceps Delivery Complications

Forceps delivery complications can cause birth injuries to the child. Since the forceps are clamped onto the newborn’s head, improper use can cause brain damage and other injuries with different levels of severity.

Forceps delivery complications put babies at an increased risk of:

  • Bleeding in the skull
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Jaundice
  • Seizures
  • Skull fractures
  • Small bumps or bruises on the baby’s head
  • Small cuts or lacerations on the baby’s face
  • Temporary facial muscle weakness (facial palsy)

Maternal birth injuries caused by complications from a forceps delivery are more common than injuries to the child.

A forceps delivery can cause mothers to suffer:

  • Blood clots in legs or pelvis veins
  • Injuries to the bladder
  • Long-term or short-term fecal or urinary incontinence
  • Pain in the tissue between the vagina and anus (perineum)
  • Uterine rupture
  • Vaginal or rectal tears
  • Weakened pelvic muscles or ligaments resulting in dropped organs (pelvic organ prolapse)

Doctors may also make a small incision of the tissue between the vagina and the anus (episiotomy) to open up the birth canal. Episiotomies are commonly used during vaginal births.

If you or your child suffered from any of these injuries during a forceps delivery, you may be eligible for financial compensation.

Get a free case review today to learn more about pursuing legal action.

Free Legal Case Review

Do you suspect your child’s birth injury was caused by medical malpractice?

Get a Free Case Review

Treatment for Forceps Delivery Injuries

After a forceps delivery, your doctor should examine both you and your child for any injuries sustained during birth.

Most minor injuries caused by forceps delivery complications can heal by themselves and do not require long-term medical intervention.

Bruises, bumps, cuts, and abrasions on the baby’s head or face should heal on their own within a few days to weeks. Temporary facial muscle weakness may disappear on its own as the nerves start to heal.

Mothers that had an episiotomy or vaginal tear may require stitches. These stitches often dissolve on their own and do not require removal. These tears should heal within a few weeks, but more severe tears may take longer or require surgery.

Incontinence may be treated by inserting a catheter in the mother’s bladder for up to 24 hours after birth. Mothers who had an epidural may be more likely to need a catheter as they may have lost additional sensation in the bladder.

Some birth injuries caused by forceps delivery complications may require long-term medical treatment. Consult with a doctor if you or your child are experiencing severe birth injury symptoms to get treatment as soon as possible.

Forceps Delivery & Medical Negligence Claims

Many forceps delivery complications are caused by medical negligence.

Health care professionals are trained to know the risks of forceps delivery and how to properly use them. If doctors use forceps improperly, it may be considered medical malpractice.

You may be eligible for financial compensation if you or your child experienced a birth injury caused by forceps delivery. Compensation can help your family pay for birth injury medical treatment.

Get a free case review to learn more about taking legal action for forceps delivery complications.

Birth Injury Support Team

The Birth Injury Justice Center was founded in 2003 by a team of legal professionals to educate and empower victims and families affected by birth injuries. Our team is devoted to providing you with the best resources and legal information for all types of birth injuries.

View Sources
  1. Assisted delivery with forceps: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2021, from
  2. Forceps Deliveries: Definition, Risks, and Prevention. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2021, from
  3. Forceps delivery. (2020, August 18). Retrieved July 22, 2021, from
  4. Forceps or vacuum delivery. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2021, from
  5. Masters, M. (2020, April 29). Forceps delivery. Retrieved July 22, 2021, from
  6. Patel, R. R., & Murphy, D. J. (2004, May 29). Forceps delivery in modern obstetric practice. Retrieved July 22, 2021, from
  7. Second stage of labor. (2021, July 16). Retrieved July 22, 2021, from,to%20have%20a%20bowel%20movement
  8. Types of forceps. (n.d.). Retrieved July 22, 2021, from