A vacuum or ventouse applies suction by placing a cup to the baby’s scalp to help draw the baby out of the pelvis. Forceps are typically metal prongs that slide over the baby’s head to also help draw the baby out of the pelvis but are also used in some caesarean births. Indications for use of these tools include delay of second stage labour due to insufficient contractions, epidural analgesia, improper rotation of baby’s head, or maternal fatigue. They may also be used if baby’s health is compromised and quick delivery is required. Epidurals increase the risk of requiring an instrument to assist with delivery.
In Canada, instrumental assisted birth is approximately 15% of all births.
Complications for both vacuum and forcepts procedures are similar. For the mother these include soft tissue damage and hemorrhage, and for baby include bruising, trauma to the head or face, and worst but rare case nerve or brain damage.
Read this post for tips to prepare for labor and delivery.