Vacuum extraction during delivery

Aug 25, 2011 at 12:48 p.m. ET

In the labor and delivery room, things don't always go as you plan. From lengthy labors to low levels of pain tolerance, each and every delivery can be different, even when you're not a first-time mother. Should your baby need a little help making his grand entrance into the world during a vaginal delivery, learn what, how and why your doctor may need to use vacuum extraction during delivery.


What is a vacuum extraction?

Used more often in place of forceps, a vacuum extraction is when your physician uses a vacuum extractor during a vaginal delivery. A vacuum extractor, also known as a ventouse, is a cup-shaped suction device placed on the baby's head during delivery to help guide your little one down the birth canal. In addition, there are two types of vacuum extractors: a metal-cup and soft cup vacuum extractors.

How is vacuum extraction performed?

The mushroom-shaped metal cup vacuum extractors are applied to your baby's head, and a mechanical or electrical suction device using pressure to remain affixed to your baby's scalp. According to an article by the American Academy of Family Physicians, metal-cup vacuum extraction is rarely performed in the United States.

However, soft cup vacuum extractions are performed with bell- or mushroom-shaped silicone rubber cups attached to a manual vacuum pump or an electric suction device.

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When is a vacuum extraction necessary?

Vacuum extractors "should be employed when indicated, usually for a non-measuring fetal heart tracing or failure to progress in the second stage of labor," as reported by the American Academy of Family Physicians, similar to when forceps are necessary during a vaginal delivery. Translation? When you're baby is having a tough time during his journey down the birth canal, your doctor will need to step in and help to ensure the safety of both mother and baby.

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Risks of a vacuum delivery

The Internet Journal of Pediatrics and Neonatology reports that vacuum extraction has not been found to result in significant intellectual or neurological disability. However, when too much pressure or suction is applied, scalp and brain trauma can occur to the newborn in the form of bleeding, bruising and swelling on the head. The risk of a cookie-cutter abrasion to the scalp if the device is twisted once placed is also associated with this type of delivery device.

Talk to your physician during your prenatal checkups about any questions or concerns you may have about a vacuum extraction during delivery. Those parents-to-be who are not comfortable with the possibility of a vacuum delivery are encouraged to discuss vacuum extractor alternatives or find an OB/GYN who does not use this device to help make you more comfortable through all the discomforts of labor and delivery.

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