What Is Vacuum-Assisted Delivery?
Vacuum-assisted delivery is a type of operative vaginal delivery used for labor that is stalled in the second stage (when the cervix is fully dilated and ready for childbirth.) Doctors perform the procedure to help get the baby through the birth canal.
A vacuum extractor has a vacuum cup (or suction cup) attached to a mechanical vacuum pump. Together, these components of the vacuum device use suction and traction on the baby’s head to help pull them out while the mother actively pushes.
“Today, assisted vaginal birth happens in about 3 in 100 vaginal deliveries in the United States.”
The procedure is generally not recommended due to the possibility of complications. Vacuum extraction complications causes can vary depending on the situation.
Talk to one of our labor and delivery nurses in confidence if you think complications from a vacuum extraction delivery could have been avoided.
Our registered nurses have decades of combined experience in labor and delivery settings and are here to help.
Why Is a Vacuum Extractor Used?
Sometimes, even when a mother is actively trying to push, childbirth stalls. When this continues for hours in the second stage of labor, the health of the mother and baby can become at risk.
During labor and delivery, health care providers will monitor the mother’s and baby’s heart rates and other vitals. Assisted delivery may be recommended if there are signs of fetal distress or other life-threatening issues.
When Is Vacuum-Assisted Delivery Needed?
Specific conditions must be met before a vacuum-assisted delivery can be performed.
- Abnormal heartbeat is detected in the baby
- Baby’s head has stopped moving down the birth canal
- Exhaustion prevents the mother from pushing any more
- Health condition that makes it more dangerous for the mother to push (like heart disease)
- Labor that seems to stall in the second stage
Vacuum Extraction vs. Forceps Delivery
In recent years, vacuum extraction and forceps delivery rates have decreased, and cesarean section (C-section) delivery rates have increased. This may be because doctors cannot always control what causes vacuum extraction complications or complications from forceps deliveries.
“The type of delivery that is done depends on many factors, including the experience of your obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) and your individual situation.”
While all three procedures are generally safe when performed correctly, vacuum extraction complications, forceps delivery complications, and C-section complications do occur. Therefore, medical professionals generally recommend unassisted vaginal birth whenever possible.
What Causes Vacuum Extraction Complications?
Unfortunately, vacuum extraction complications causes are not always detected until the procedure is underway. This makes it difficult to reverse course or prevent harm.
Complications from vacuum extraction are more likely to occur when the procedure has been underway for 20 minutes or more or when the soft cup of the vacuum device has repeatedly come off the baby’s head.
Knowing the different vacuum extraction complications causes can help your medical team avoid problems with your delivery and harming you and your newborn.
Risk Factors for Vacuum Extraction Complications
While it is not always possible to predict vacuum extraction complications causes, certain risk factors make them more likely to occur.
Vacuum extraction complications are more likely in babies who are:
- Not in a headfirst position
- Not low enough in the birth canal
- Premature (mother is less than 34 weeks pregnant)
- Too large to fit through the birth canal
Sometimes, weak bones or bleeding disorders in babies may be what causes vacuum extraction complications.
Additionally, one of the top vacuum extraction complications causes is when doctors can’t tell exactly where a baby’s head is located. Recommended medical advice in these situations should be to avoid attempting the procedure altogether.
Preventing Vacuum Extraction Complications Causes
Because doctors can’t always prevent vacuum extraction complications causes, they usually avoid the procedure. However, when medical professionals do attempt vacuum extraction, there are several steps they should take to help with labor and delivery.
Before recommending vacuum extraction, your obstetrics team can:
- Give you oxygen through a mask
- Provide intravenous (IV) fluids through your arm
- Reposition you to help make delivery faster
Complications from vacuum extraction deliveries can cause several types of birth injuries. Therefore, they should only be performed when there are no other options.
Can a Vacuum Extractor Cause Birth Injuries?
In addition to causing harm to mothers, such as vaginal tears, postpartum bleeding, and incontinence, vacuum extractors can also harm newborns. The short- and long-term side effects vary and depend on specific vacuum extraction complications causes.
- Brain damage
- Caput succedaneum (swelling around the baby’s skull)
- Cephalohematoma (buildup of blood on the skull from broken blood vessels)
- Intracranial hemorrhage (brain bleeds that can cause brain injury)
- Newborn jaundice (a leading cause of kernicterus)
- Scalp lacerations
- Skull fracture
- Subgaleal hematoma (clotting blood between the scalp and skull)
- Subgaleal hemorrhage (active bleeding between the scalp and skull)
Birth injuries are not always detected immediately and sometimes covered up by medical professionals.
Take our free milestones quiz now if you suspect your baby could have been injured by a vacuum-assisted delivery.
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?
Vacuum Extraction Complications and Medical Malpractice
The reality is that many things can happen during childbirth, no matter how careful and prepared families are. Some situations cannot be avoided or predicted.
There are times when assisted vaginal delivery procedures, such as vacuum extraction, are the best-recommended course of action to keep the mother and baby safe. However, vacuum extraction should only be attempted as a last resort and performed with informed consent.
When vacuum extraction complications causes are the result of medical malpractice, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
In 2022, a jury awarded $97.4 million to an Iowa family after forceps and vacuum extraction crushed their son’s skull, causing a type of brain injury called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, skull fracture, and cerebral palsy. This is the largest amount awarded in Iowa state history for a medical malpractice case.
Get Help for a Birth Injury Caused by Vacuum Extraction
Obstetricians and labor and delivery staff members are specially trained to appropriately respond to all situations in the delivery room. When this does not happen, families pay dearly.
Thankfully, a birth injury lawyer may be able to help get you the compensation you need to create a stable future for your child.
Get a free case review from our team to find out if we can help. You don’t have to face your child’s birth injury alone.
Vacuum Extraction Complications Causes FAQs
What are the potential complications of vacuum extraction?
Potential complications from vacuum-assisted delivery include skull fractures, brain bleeds, shoulder dystocia, and even lifelong conditions like cerebral palsy.
Vacuum extraction complications causes vary, but the outcome is the same: harm to the newborn baby or mother.
What is the most serious complication of vacuum extraction?
The most serious complication of vacuum extraction is an injury that causes lifelong harm to a newborn. Skull fractures that lead to brain damage can create a lasting impact, leading to unforeseen medical expenses and care that no family could have anticipated.
While any type of harm to your newborn is serious, an injury that changes the course of their life can be considered the most severe. Request a free consultation now to see if you have legal options.
Can vacuum delivery cause brain damage?
Yes, sometimes vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery can lead to vacuum extraction injuries, including skull fractures that cause brain damage. If the suction cups are not properly placed on the baby’s head, or too much pressure is applied, the delicate skull and undeveloped brain of a newborn can easily be injured.
Can vacuum delivery cause learning disabilities?
Yes, it’s possible that vacuum extraction complications can have a lifelong impact on your child and lead to future learning disabilities. While there is currently no solid understanding of the specific causes of learning disabilities, some studies suggest that birth injuries may play a role.
This may be especially true in cases of prolonged labor, which is sometimes what causes vacuum extraction complications.
What are the risk factors of vacuum delivery?
The risk factors of vacuum delivery complications include bone weakness or bleeding disorders in the baby, their location in the birth canal, and when they are not positioned headfirst.
If any of these risk factors are present, the delivery team must take extra precautions when considering vacuum-assisted delivery. Failure to do so is one of the top vacuum extraction complications causes.