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The Pros and Cons of a Forceps vs. Vacuum Delivery

When a child gets stuck in the birth canal during delivery, a forceps or vacuum method may need to be used.

Childbirth is a beautiful process, but it also comes with many risks and potential complications. Sometimes, a baby can get stuck inside the birth canal, which leads doctors to use assistive devices such as forceps and vacuums to help guide them out of the canal while the mother pushes. In theory, doctors can safely use these devices in certain circumstances, such as the need for a quick delivery. Still, both of these devices have their own advantages and disadvantages and can lead to birth injuries and even death. This article discusses the pros and cons of using forceps vs a vacuum during the delivery process.

The attorneys at Snyder Law Group are fierce advocates for victims of medical malpractice, particularly when our nation’s most vulnerable population is at risk. Newborn babies deserve a safe delivery, setting them up for success in their long, happy, healthy lives. When doctors and nurses make poor decisions during the delivery process and harm our nation’s infants by improperly using forceps or vacuums, our team steps in to hold them accountable. 

Our Baltimore birth injury and medical malpractice attorneys have helped dozens of families recover compensation for the trials they have endured because of negligent doctors, nurses, and hospitals. 

Vacuum Delivery

According to recent statistics, approximately 2.5% of all vaginal births in the United States in 2020 occurred with the assistance of vacuums. The obstetrician may suggest using a vacuum for many reasons, such as a concerning fetal heart rate, maternal exhaustion, or another potential complication. Babies stuck in the birth canal for too long may be at risk for brain damage due to a lack of oxygen to this vital organ. 

When doctors use the vacuum, they don’t use it to extract the baby, per se. Rather, they suction the baby’s head and guide the baby out of the birth canal using the vacuum. The team still needs the mother’s assistance to get the baby out of the canal.

Vacuum-assisted deliveries have many advantages, especially when compared to the risks associated with Cesarean sections. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t also risks when using the vacuum during delivery. Serious birth injuries can result if doctors do not properly utilize the vacuum technique. 

What Are the Advantages of Using a Vacuum During Delivery?

The vacuum option is more common than using forceps. According to the National Library of Medicine’s 2022 publication, Vacuum Extraction, the techniques required to use the vacuum are easier to learn than those for forceps. Moreover, there is less of a risk of facial injury to the infant and genital trauma to the mother than compared to the use of forceps. Finally, the publication reports that less anesthesia is required, which benefits both mother and baby. Overall, using the vacuum is considered less risky for both the child and the mother.

What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Vacuum During Delivery?

Although it’s the more common option, the failure rate for vacuum deliveries is higher than that of a forceps extraction. Using a vacuum can increase the risk of certain complications, such as retinal hemorrhage and cephalhematoma (excess blood between the skull and tissue of the child’s head). If a vacuum delivery fails, there is a higher chance that the mother will have to undergo a C-section, which also increases the risk of complications.

Vacuum-assisted deliveries carry many other risks, especially if the medical team is not carefully monitoring the baby’s position in the birth canal. For example, newborns risk developing a brachial plexus injury if the baby’s shoulder gets lodged in the birth canal and the delivery doctors use a vacuum to extract the infant. According to the National Library of Medicine’s publication, Vacuum Extraction (cited above), other risks of using a vacuum to assist with delivery include the following:

The doctors should take care when deciding to perform a vacuum-assisted delivery to limit the potential for unnecessary injury to the mother and baby. 

Forceps Delivery

In its 2022 publication, Forceps Delivery, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) reports that the use of forceps to assist with deliveries occurred approximately 1.1% of the time out of 22 million vaginal births between 2005 and 2013. Overall, the use of forceps during deliveries has declined over the years. The reason for the decline is unclear, with some physicians citing as the source the increased risk of litigation associated with the use of forceps. Others claim a lack of resident training is to blame for the decrease. 

When used properly, forceps can limit the need for a cesarean section (or C-section) and increase the speed of delivery. But even the proper use of forceps during delivery carries serious risks to both mother and child. 

What Are the Advantages of a Forceps Delivery?

A forceps delivery has been shown to be more successful than a vacuum. Using the forceps lowers the risk of cephalohematoma compared to a vacuum delivery. Classically-trained doctors or those who have been doctors for a while tend to prefer this method over the vacuum. Using forceps at the appropriate time can decrease the need to perform C-sections, which can have long-term impacts on the mother. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Using Forceps During Delivery?

As indicated in the NLM publication Forceps Delivery, the use of forceps can result in many types of injuries to the mother and her infant. To the infant, forceps can cause the following damage:


  • Facial lacerations, 
  • Eye and retinal injuries, 
  • Fractured skull, 
  • Jaundice, and
  • Death. 


Forceps delivery poses a greater risk of damaging the baby’s facial nerves. The risk of retinal hemorrhage and cephalhematoma are also present with this option.


Mothers giving birth with the help of forceps risk pelvic organ prolapse, perineal tears, and vaginal lacerations. While doctors can repair tears, it causes the mother to have a longer recovery time than normal, resulting in unnecessary pain and discomfort.

Has Your Child Suffered Birth Injuries as a Result of Medical Malpractice? Contact The Snyder Law Group Today

The Snyder Law Group, LLC, proudly represents clients through Maryland and Washington D.C. Our experienced Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys understand the frustration of going up against an insurance company, medical professional, or another party that refuses to accept liability for negligence or reckless behavior. You can take heart in knowing our talented and experienced lawyers are ready to work for you. We are experienced in handling personal injury claims that result from medical malpractice and have secured hundreds of millions in verdict settlements. Give us a call at (410)-755-5829 for a free case evaluation. You can also visit our website at, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn for more information.

Call 410-THE-FIRM. Don’t just sue them. SNYDER THEM

Call 410-THE-FIRM. Don't just sue them. SNYDER THEM

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2023 at 12:04 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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