It’s very often impossible to determine exactly how your labour is going to progress. You may find that your labour goes extremely quickly and before you’ve had a chance to ask for drugs, you’re holding your baby in your arms. In other cases your labour may go on, and on, and on. Your baby may also encounter some difficulty pushing his way out and will need a little helping hand.
Your doctor will probably decide to use forceps if your baby’s head is engaged and labour suddenly stops. He may also use them if you’re too exhausted to push after a prolonged labour, if your baby is in distress or if he’s in the breech position.
This procedure is very often used in theatre, simply as a precaution. In the event that your baby is still not able to come out safely, despite using forceps, your doctor may consider performing a caesarean.
Forceps are a pair of instruments that look a lot like salad servers. Each forceps delivery is different. Your doctor may decide to inject a local anaesthetic into your perineum and then perform an episiotomy. This will help prevent any tearing during the assisted delivery.
He’ll then gently push the forceps into your vagina, cradle your baby’s head and guide him out. You will still need to push through your contractions.
This procedure, called vacuum extraction or ventouse, is used when your baby is stuck in the birth canal. The plastic or metal cap is placed on your baby’s head, using a suction-like pump. Your doctor will then gently move your baby’s head into the right position and pull him out.
The vacuum extractor is a more gentle procedure than forceps and is easier to apply. Your doctor is also less likely to need to perform an episiotomy.
How will your baby be affected?
Your doctor will recommend that a paediatrician be on standby during a forceps delivery or vacuum extraction. Labour is generally a traumatic time for your baby, but when forceps or a ventouse are brought in, your baby may need some medical attention after he’s delivered.
You may also notice that your baby will have slight bruising on his head. If forceps were used, he may have little lines on the side of his head. If a ventouse was used, he may have a bruise on the back of his head. These bruises may last for several months and may even appear even darker when your baby cries. But rest assured that they will eventually fade.
For many women, hell-bent on having natural birth, a caesarean section is a sign that they’ve failed. There is nothing further than the truth. In fact, very often caesarean sections are absolutely crucial, and without that operation, the mother and child could become very ill or die.
It is so important for a woman, to go into labour with an open mind. Yes, natural birth may be your first and only choice, but accept that in the event of an emergency – which is completely out of your control – you will have to have a caesarean.
You may have to have a caesarean when your baby’s head is just too big to pass through the birth canal. Your baby may also be in the wrong position (breech). A caesarean section is also the quickest and safest method to get your baby out if he’s in distress.
Your doctor will give you an injection in your spine, known as a spinal block or an epidural. Some have described the injection as a very mild bee sting; others say they felt nothing at all. Once the lower half of your body has gone numb, he’ll cut into your abdomen and uterus, cut open the amniotic sac and pull your baby out.
An assisted delivery was probably not what you dreamed of when you imagined what your baby’s birth-day would be like. But rest assured that your doctor has the health and safety of you and your baby in mind when performing them.