What Is Vacuum Extraction?
A vacuum extraction, also known as ventouse, is a procedure performed to assist a complicated or prolonged delivery that threatens the safety of the baby or mother. Delivery assistance using a vacuum extractor or forceps occurs in about 5% of births.
The vacuum extraction device includes a soft cup that is firmly attached to the baby’s head and a vacuum pump for creating suction. Typically, the mother will push while the doctor guides and pulls the baby through the birth canal during a vaginal delivery. The doctor will remove the cup once the baby’s head is visible.
Vacuum extractions are only recommended during the second stage of labor when the cervix has fully dilated and the baby has descended headfirst into the birth canal.
Why Is Vacuum Extraction Used?
Doctors may use vacuum extraction in a variety of circumstances, including:
- The mother is pushing, but labor is not progressing
- The mother is getting too tired to continue pushing
- The mother has a health condition that prevents her from pushing for too long
- The baby’s heart rate is abnormal, indicating fetal distress
When done properly, a vacuum extraction removes the baby from the birth canal quickly, reducing the risk of complications for the baby or mother. Vacuum extraction can also eliminate the need for a C-section. However, if the doctor cannot safely deliver the baby with the vacuum extraction, a C-section is recommended.
What Causes Vacuum Extraction Injuries?
An improperly performed assisted delivery can result in vacuum extraction complications for both the mother and child.
For example, vacuum extraction delivery complications can cause a baby to suffer stretching or tearing of the nerves in the neck, putting them at risk of spinal cord injury. The mother is also at risk of complications when the increased stretching of the vagina is required for the baby to exit the birth canal.
Since there is a higher risk to the baby and mother during a vacuum extraction than with a natural birth, the procedure should only be done if necessary.
IS YOUR CHILD MISSING DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES?
Take Our Milestones Quiz
Taking note of your child’s physical, social, and emotional skills can help you determine if they potentially suffered from an injury at birth. An early diagnosis can help your child get the treatment they need as soon as possible.
Q1: How old is your child?
0-2 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Hold their head steadily on their own?
- Q3: Push themselves up when they are lying on their stomach?
- Q4: Start to make smoother movements with their arms and legs?
- Q5: Smile at other people?
- Q6: Bring their hands to their mouth?
- Q7: Turn their head when they hear a noise?
- Q8: Coo or make gurgling noises?
- Q9: Follow things with their eyes?
- Q10: Try to look at their parents or caregivers?
- Q11: Show boredom, cry, or fuss when engaged in an activity that hasn’t changed in awhile?
3-4 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Hold their head steadily on their own?
- Q3: Push down on their legs when their feet are on a flat surface?
- Q4: Start to roll over from their stomach to their back?
- Q5: Hold and shake a toy such as a rattle?
- Q6: Bring their hands to their mouth?
- Q7: Play with people and start to cry when the playing stops?
- Q8: Smile spontaneously, especially at people?
- Q9: Copy some movements and facial expressions of other people?
- Q10: Babbles with expressions and copy sounds they hear?
- Q11: Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain, or being tired?
- Q12: Respond to affection like hugging or kissing?
- Q13: Follows moving things with eyes from side to side?
- Q14: Recognize familiar people at a distance?
5-6 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Roll over on both sides (front to back/back to front)?
- Q3: Begin to sit without support?
- Q4: Rock back and forth?
- Q5: Supports weight on legs and might bounce when standing?
- Q6: Begin to pass things from one hand to another?
- Q7: Bring objects such as toys to their mouth?
- Q8: Know if someone is not familiar to them and is a stranger?
- Q9: Respond to other people’s emotions such as a smile or a frown?
- Q10: Enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror?
- Q11: Look at things around them?
- Q12: Respond to sounds they hear by making sounds themselves?
- Q13: Make sounds to show joy or displeasure?
- Q14: Respond to their own name?
- Q15: Start to string vowels together such as "ah," "eh," "oh," or say consonant sounds such as "m" or "b"?
- Q16: Begin to laugh?
7-9 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Crawl?
- Q3: Stand while holding onto something to support them?
- Q4: Sit without support?
- Q5: Pull themselves up to stand?
- Q6: Play peek-a-boo?
- Q7: Move things from one hand to another?
- Q8: Pick small things up such as a piece of cereal with their thumb and index finger?
- Q9: Look for things that they see you hide?
- Q10: Watch the path of something as it falls?
- Q11: Show fear over being around strangers?
- Q12: Become clingy with adults familiar to them?
- Q13: Have favorite toys?
- Q14: Use their fingers to point?
- Q15: Understand “no?”
- Q16: Make a lot of repetitive sounds such as “mamama” or “bababa”?
- Q17: Copy sounds and gestures of other people?
10-12 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Stand alone with no support?
- Q3: Walk while holding onto furniture?
- Q4: Take a few steps without holding onto anything?
- Q5: Get into a sitting position without any help?
- Q6: Bang two things together when playing?
- Q7: Poke with their index finger?
- Q8: Start to use things like hair brushes or drinking cups correctly?
- Q9: Find hidden objects easily?
- Q10: Play peek-a-boo or pat-a-cake?
- Q11: Become shy or nervous around strangers?
- Q12: Repeat actions or sounds to get attention?
- Q13: Puts out an arm or leg to help when getting dressed?
- Q14: Cry when a parent leaves the room?
- Q15: Show that they have favorite things or people?
- Q16: Show fear?
- Q17: Say things such as “mama,” “dada,” or “uh-oh”?
- Q18: Try to say the words you say?
- Q19: Start to use gestures like waving or shaking head “no”?
13-18 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Walk by themselves?
- Q3: Walk up stairs and run?
- Q4: Pulls toys while walking?
- Q5: Drink from a cup on their own?
- Q6: Eat with a spoon on their own?
- Q7: Can help undress themselves?
- Q8: Have occasional temper tantrums?
- Q9: Show affection to familiar people?
- Q10: Become clingy in new situations?
- Q11: Explore their environment alone with parents close by?
- Q12: Say several single words?
- Q13: Say and shake their head “no”?
- Q14: Point to show things to other people?
- Q15: Scribble?
- Q16: Know what ordinary products such as phones, spoons, and brushes are used for?
- Q17: Follow 1-step commands such as “sit down” or “stand up”?
- Q18: Plays with a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed them?
19-23 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Begin to run?
- Q3: Kick a ball?
- Q4: Climb down and onto furniture on their own?
- Q5: Walk up and down stairs while holding on?
- Q6: Stand on their tiptoes?
- Q7: Throw a ball overhand?
- Q8: Copy others, especially people older than them?
- Q9: Get excited around other children?
- Q10: Show more independence as they age?
- Q11: Do what they were told not to do and become defiant?
- Q12: Point to things when they are named?
- Q13: Know names of familiar people or body parts?
- Q14: Say 2 to 4-word sentences?
- Q15: Repeat words they hear?
- Q16: Complete sentences and rhymes in familiar books?
- Q17: Name items in books such as dogs, cats, birds, etc.?
- Q18: Play simple pretend games?
- Q19: Start to use one hand more than the other?
- Q20: Begin to sort shapes and colors?
- Q21: Follow 2-step instructions such as “pick up your hat and put it on your head?”
24+ MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Run easily?
- Q3: Climb?
- Q4: Walk up and down stairs with one foot on each step?
- Q5: Dress and undress themselves?
- Q6: Show affection for friends without being told?
- Q7: Take turns when playing games?
- Q8: Show concern when others are crying?
- Q9: Understand the idea of “mine,” “his,” or “hers”?
- Q10: Show many different emotions?
- Q11: Copy adults and friends?
- Q12: Separate easily from their parents?
- Q13: Get upset when there is a major change in their routine?
- Q14: Say words such as “I,” “me,” “we,” “you,” and some plural nouns?
- Q15: Say their first name, age, and gender?
- Q16: Carry on a conversation with 2 to 3 sentences?
- Q17: Work toys with buttons and other moving parts?
- Q18: Play pretend with dolls, animals, or people?
- Q19: Finish 3 or 4 piece puzzles?
- Q20: Copy a circle when drawing?
- Q21: Turn pages of a book one page at a time?
- Q22: Turn door handles?
Risk Factors of Vacuum Extraction Injuries
Since there are several risk factors that can lead to vacuum extraction injuries, there are some instances when an extractor should not be used during a delivery.
There are several risk factors that can lead to vacuum extraction injuries. There are many instances when a vacuum extractor should not be used to assist a delivery.
Circumstances that increase the risk of vacuum extraction delivery complications:
- The baby’s head is too high up in the birth canal
- The baby is not in a head-down position in the birth canal (breech)
- The baby is too large to fit through the mother’s pelvis
- The baby has a medical condition that causes weakened bones or a bleeding disorder
- The doctor cannot determine the position of the baby’s head
- The mother is less than 34 weeks pregnant
Effects of Vacuum Extraction Injuries
If vacuum extraction injuries are not appropriately treated in a timely manner, the baby and/or mother may experience short- and long-term health conditions. Some effects are acute and can be visible immediately, whereas others may be chronic and last longer.
The baby and the mother may fully recover or develop ongoing medical conditions depending on the severity of the damage and prompt medical intervention.
Get your free legal case review and see if you are entitled to financial compensation
Short-Term Effects for the Mother and Baby
Most vacuum extraction injuries are visible within ten hours after birth.
Short-term effects for the baby:
- Bleeding under the brain
- Bleeding under the scalp
- Bruising and swelling of baby’s head
Short-term effects for the mother:
- Anemia due to blood loss
- Blood clots
- Pelvic pain
- Vaginal tears leading to infection
Blood clots can be prevented by moving around often and using anti-clotting stockings and/or injections.
Long-Term Effects for the Mother and Baby
There are several long-term effects caused by vacuum extraction complications that can require further medical treatment for both the mother and the baby.
Long-term effects for the baby:
- Cerebral palsy
- Cognitive and developmental issues
- Erb’s palsy, or brachial plexus palsy
- Hearing loss
- Severe jaundice
- Skull fractures
One of the most serious complications to the baby is bleeding under the scalp or inside the skull.
The bleeding is caused by damage to the veins as the suction cup pulls at the tissues of the baby’s head. This can cause hematomas and brain damage, which can be life-threatening. Brain damage may lead to problems with speech and developmental problems depending on the area of the brain affected.
Long-term effects for the mother:
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Issues with urination, defecation, and sexual intercourse
- Severe vaginal tears
Treatments for Vacuum Extraction Injuries
Your doctor should examine you and your child for any vacuum extraction delivery complications. Many vacuum extraction injuries can be treated if addressed in a timely manner.
Some of the most common vacuum extraction complications include bruising and vaginal tears.
Bruising and swelling of the baby’s head from the suction cup is common and will disappear on its own. If a baby’s head is bruised from the vacuum extraction, doctors will closely monitor the child for 2 to 3 days to decrease the risk of any long-term complications.
Mothers that experience severe vaginal tears or undergo an episiotomy (surgical incision in the perineum to enlarge the vagina) will require stitching. These stitches will dissolve on their own and do not require removal.
Mothers that experience issues with incontinence may require a catheter to drain the bladder for up to 24 hours. After removal, mothers are instructed to drink lots of water to stay hydrated and combat urination problems.
Vacuum Extractions and Medical Negligence
Patients rely on their doctor’s professional training and experience to decide the best option to assist with their delivery. For this reason, the improper use of vacuum extractors may be considered medical negligence.
Medical malpractice resulting in vacuum extraction delivery complications can be caused by misuse of the device during delivery or failure to provide prompt and appropriate treatment after the procedure.
Doctors should monitor the mother and her newborn for any signs of vacuum extraction delivery complications. Prompt treatment of jaundice, skull fractures, hematomas, and nerve damage can prevent a baby from developing long-term complications. Doctors should also take precautions to prevent any vaginal tears in the mother from becoming infected.
Are You Eligible for Financial Compensation?
Vacuum extraction complications are preventable when medical professionals follow care guidelines correctly and administer prompt treatment to mothers and their babies.
If your doctor did not take the proper precautions during your vacuum extraction, it may be considered medical negligence.
In cases of negligence or malpractice, many families choose to pursue justice against the medical personnel at fault and seek financial compensation with the help of experienced birth injury lawyers. If your child suffered complications as a result of an improper vacuum extraction, you also may be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit.
Get a free case review today to learn how an experienced birth injury attorney may be able to help you and your family.