Vacuum Extraction Injuries

laborSince before recorded time, people have been trying to make childbirth easier on the mother and safer for the baby. This often meant using all kinds of tools to assist with the delivery. One modern example of this is the use of a vacuum extraction tool. However, while it may represent how far we have come in facilitating childbirth, it can also cause a number of injuries to both the baby and its mother.

What Is a Vacuum Extraction?

During the course of a vaginal childbirth, the physician may decide that a vacuum extraction is necessary. This refers to using a vacuum tool for securing the head of the baby and guiding it through the birth canal. Usually, this process is undertaken during a contraction while the mother is pushing.

This form of childbirth assistance usually happens during the second stage of labor if the process is not going well or if the physician believes the baby’s health would be compromised if it was not delivered immediately.

The machine itself is actually quite similar to a true vacuum. There is a cup that may be either soft or rigid with a handle on it that connects to a vacuum pump.

Types of Vacuum Extraction Injuries

While they may be necessary at times, vacuum extractors still constitute a risk. The baby it is going to be used on should be no older than 34 weeks gestation. Other important factors apply too. This tool is not to be used in cases where the baby’s head is too large for the mother’s pelvis. The baby’s head also should not be too far up the birth canal either. If the baby needs to be repositioned for proper delivery, the vacuum extractor will not help. Finally, the tool should never be used if the mother is not fully dilated.

Injuries caused by the extractor can vary greatly depending on how it was used. Usually, however, they involve skull fractures, brachial plexus injuries which can include Klumpke’s palsy, Erb’s palsy and other forms of shoulder dystocia, retinal hemorrhages, brain hemorrhages, and cerebral palsy.

If gone untreated, any of these injuries can cause serious problems for the baby. They could become paralyzed, for example. Other lifelong conditions like intellectual disabilities could occur too. If left untreated, something like a hemorrhage could even lead to death.

Symptoms of Birth Injuries Related to Vacuum Extractors

As the types of injuries are so diverse, the symptoms related to vacuum extractors depend on where they occurred. For example, if the brachial plexus nerves were damaged, the child’s injuries will most likely involve symptoms in the arm and hand of the side they were hurt on. However, if they were injured in the skull area, their symptoms would be much different.

That being said, most injuries will involve the head in some way, including the brain and skull. This makes sense when you consider that the machine attaches itself to the baby by the head.

This is why the most common symptoms related to this type of injury are lethargic behavior and seizures, both of which can happen within an hour or so of birth.

Preventing Vacuum Extractor Injuries

Fortunately, these injuries are easy enough to prevent. You may want to ask that a doctor consider using forceps instead of a vacuum for extracting your child. Another idea is to wait until a later stage of the childbirth before giving permission to use the extractor.

If you believe that your child was injured during the birthing process, you will be best served by speaking with a medical professional as soon as possible. Even if a full recovery is not possible, treatment may still make a difference.

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