Forceps birth

A forceps delivery is also known as an ‘assisted delivery’. An assisted delivery is more common with a first baby and takes place if it is necessary to help you to deliver your baby safely 

You may be offered a forceps delivery if: 

  • You have been pushing for a long time and your baby has not been born. 
  • Your baby is showing signs that it is tired and needs to be born quickly. 
  • You have been advised not to push because of an underlying condition. 
  • Your baby is in an awkward position which would make pushing them out much harder. 

Forceps are long curved metal instruments shaped like tongs or salad servers. They are inserted into the vagina and placed either side of the baby’s head to curve around it. They are then joined together and locked by an obstetrician skilled in the procedure. The doctor will then gently pull during a contraction and you will be encouraged to push. If you do not have an epidural a local anaesthetic will have been administered to the area beforehand. You will be given an episiotomy to help with the delivery of your baby. Your baby will then be delivered through your vagina. A Paediatrician will be present at delivery to ensure that your baby is healthy and well following the delivery. 

Approximately 1 in 8 women will need an assisted delivery, either by forceps or ventouse. 

Whilst assisted deliveries are very safe, there are some additional risks associated with a forceps delivery: 

Risks for you: 

  • A 3rd or 4th degree vaginal tear (this affects approximately 1 in 8 women who have a forceps or ventouse delivery) where a tear or episiotomy extends to include the tissue and muscles of the anus Increased risk of blood clots. You may be asked to wear special stockings and have blood thinning injections to prevent this. 
  • Urinary or anal incontinence. You will be referred to a physiotherapist after your delivery and provided with advice and information about the importance of pelvic floor exercises. 

Risks to your baby: 

  • Marks and bruising on your baby’s face from the forceps. This typically resolves within 48 hours of the birth. 
  • Small cuts on your baby’s head and face which will heal quickly. 
  • An increased risk of jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes post-delivery). This should pass within a few days of the birth and will be monitored by the midwives caring for you and your baby. 

You may also need a catheter to help you pass urine for the first 24 hours following delivery. This is particularly likely if you have had an epidural as you may not immediately feel the sensation of need to pass urine. 

Further information can be found below: 

Forceps or vacuum delivery - Information from the NHS website about forceps or vaccum delivery. 

Was this page useful?

Was this page useful?