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: Can your child hold their head steadily on their own?
- Q3: Can your child push themselves up when they are lying on their stomach?
- Q4: Has your child started to make smoother movements with their arms and legs?
- Q5: Does your child smile at other people?
- Q6: Can your child bring their hands to their mouth?
- Q7: Does your child turn their head when they hear a noise?
- Q8: Does your child coo or make gurgling noises?
- Q9: Does your child follow things with their eyes?
- Q10: Does your child try to look at their parents or caregivers?
- Q11: Does your child show boredom, cry, or fuss when engaged in an activity that hasn’t changed in a while?
3-4 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child hold their head steadily on their own?
- Q3: Does your child push down on their legs when their feet are on a flat surface?
- Q4: Has your child started to roll over from their stomach to their back?
- Q5: Can your child hold and shake a toy such as a rattle?
- Q6: Does your child bring their hands to their mouth?
- Q7: Does your child play with people and start to cry when the playing stops?
- Q8: Does your child smile spontaneously, especially at people?
- Q9: Does your child copy some movements and facial expressions of other people?
- Q10: Does your child babble with expressions and copy sounds they hear?
- Q11: Does your child cry in different ways to show hunger, pain, or tiredness?
- Q12: Does your child respond to affection like hugging or kissing?
- Q13: Does your child follow moving things with their eyes from side to side?
- Q14: Does your child recognize familiar people at a distance?
5-6 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child roll over on both sides (front to back/back to front)?
- Q3: Has your child begun to sit without support?
- Q4: Does your child rock back and forth?
- Q5: Can your child support their weight on their legs (and perhaps bounce) when standing?
- Q6: Has your child begun to pass things from one hand to the other?
- Q7: Does your child bring objects such as toys to their mouth?
- Q8: Does your child know if someone is not familiar to them and is a stranger?
- Q9: Does your child respond to other people’s emotions, such as a smile or a frown?
- Q10: Does your child enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror?
- Q11: Does your child look at things around them?
- Q12: Does your child respond to sounds they hear by making sounds themselves?
- Q13: Does your child make sounds to show joy or displeasure?
- Q14: Does your child respond to their own name?
- Q15: Has your child started to string vowels together, such as "ah," "eh," or "oh," or started to say consonant sounds such as "m" or "b"?
- Q16: Has your child begun to laugh?
7-9 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child crawl?
- Q3: Can your child stand while holding on to something to support them?
- Q4: Can your child sit without support?
- Q5: Can your child pull themselves up to stand?
- Q6: Does your child play peekaboo?
- Q7: Can your child move things from one hand to the other?
- Q8: Can your child pick small things up, such as a piece of cereal, with their thumb and index finger?
- Q9: Does your child look for things that they see you hide?
- Q10: Does your child watch the path of something as it falls?
- Q11: Does your child show fear when around strangers?
- Q12: Does your child become clingy with adults who are familiar to them?
- Q13: Does your child have favorite toys?
- Q14: Does your child use their fingers to point?
- Q15: Does your child understand “no”?
- Q16: Does your child make a lot of repetitive sounds, such as “mamama” or “bababa”?
- Q17: Does your child copy the sounds and gestures of other people?
10-12 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child stand alone with no support?
- Q3: Does your child walk while holding on to furniture?
- Q4: Can your child take a few steps without holding on to anything?
- Q5: Can your child get into a sitting position without any help?
- Q6: Does your child bang two things together when playing?
- Q7: Does your child poke with their index finger?
- Q8: Has your child started to use things like hairbrushes or drinking cups correctly?
- Q9: Does your child find hidden objects easily?
- Q10: Does your child play peekaboo or pat-a-cake?
- Q11: Does your child become shy or nervous around strangers?
- Q12: Does your child repeat actions or sounds to get attention?
- Q13: Does your child put out an arm or leg to help when getting dressed?
- Q14: Does your child cry when a parent leaves the room?
- Q15: Does your child show that they have favorite things or people?
- Q16: Does your child show fear?
- Q17: Does your child say things such as “mama,” “dada,” or “uh-oh”?
- Q18: Does your child try to say the words you say?
- Q19: Has your child started to use gestures like waving or shaking their head “no”?
13-18 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child walk by themselves?
- Q3: Does your child walk up stairs and run?
- Q4: Does your child pull toys while walking?
- Q5: Can your child drink from a cup on their own?
- Q6: Can your child eat with a spoon on their own?
- Q7: Can your child help undress themselves?
- Q8: Does your child have occasional temper tantrums?
- Q9: Does your child show affection to familiar people?
- Q10: Does your child become clingy in new situations?
- Q11: Does your child explore their environment alone with parents close by?
- Q12: Can your child say several single words?
- Q13: Can your child say and shake their head “no”?
- Q14: Does your child point to show things to other people?
- Q15: Does your child scribble?
- Q16: Does your child know what ordinary products such as phones, spoons, and brushes are used for?
- Q17: Can your child follow one-step commands such as “sit down” or “stand up”?
- Q18: Does your child play with a doll or stuffed animal by pretending to feed it?
19-23 MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Has your child begun to run?
- Q3: Has your child kicked a ball?
- Q4: Can your child climb down and onto furniture on their own?
- Q5: Can your child walk up and down stairs while holding on?
- Q6: Can your child stand on their tiptoes?
- Q7: Has your child thrown a ball overhand?
- Q8: Does your child copy others, especially people older than them?
- Q9: Does your child get excited around other children?
- Q10: Has your child shown more independence as they've aged?
- Q11: Does your child do what they were told not to do and become defiant?
- Q12: Does your child point to things when they are named?
- Q13: Does your child know names of familiar people or body parts?
- Q14: Does your child say 2 to 4-word sentences?
- Q15: Does your child repeat words they hear?
- Q16: Does your child complete sentences and rhymes in familiar books?
- Q17: Does your child name items in books, such as dogs, cats, and birds?
- Q18: Does your child play simple pretend games?
- Q19: Has your child started to use one hand more than the other?
- Q20: Has your child begun to sort shapes and colors?
- Q21: Does your child follow 2-step instructions, such as “pick up your hat and put it on your head?”
24+ MONTHS DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES QUIZ
- Q2: Can your child run easily?
- Q3: Can your child climb?
- Q4: Can your child walk up and down stairs with one foot on each step?
- Q5: Can your child dress and undress themselves?
- Q6: Does your child show affection for friends without being told?
- Q7: Does your child take turns when playing games?
- Q8: Does your child show concern when others are crying?
- Q9: Does your child understand the idea of “mine" and "theirs"?
- Q10: Does your child show many different emotions?
- Q11: Does your child copy adults and friends?
- Q12: Does your child separate easily from their parents?
- Q13: Does your child get upset when there is a major change in their routine?
- Q14: Does your child say words such as “I,” “me,” “we,” “you,” and some plural nouns?
- Q15: Can your child say their first name, age, and gender?
- Q16: Can your child carry on a conversation with 2 to 3 sentences?
- Q17: Can your child work toys with buttons and other moving parts?
- Q18: Does your child play pretend with dolls, animals, or people?
- Q19: Can your child finish 3 or 4 piece puzzles?
- Q20: Can your child copy a circle when drawing?
- Q21: Can your child turn pages of a book one page at a time?
- Q22: Can your child 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.