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Your assisted delivery questions answered

Your assisted delivery questions answered

 - Your assisted delivery questions answered
As hard as you try to prepare for the perfect birth, things don't always go according to plan and most of the time what happens in childbirth is out of your control.

So when things do go wrong it's good to know what might happen, which is why getting your head around assisted delivery is advised.

Assisted delivery is nothing to be afraid of, in fact around 1 in 8 births have some kind of extra assistance.
We spoke to Obstetrician and Gynecologist Mr Anthony Boret to help put your mind at ease.

The best advice we can give is not to worry. "It is a safe procedure usually carried out by competent operators, and assisted deliveries are only carried out when essential", says Mr Boret.

What is assisted delivery? 

Assisted delivery is when a woman needs extra help giving birth to her child during labour. It is also called a instrumental or operative vaginal birth.

Usually this extra help comes in the form of instruments that attach to the baby's head to help them to be born. The instruments used for this procedure are either a pair of forceps or a ventouse for assisted vaginal birth.

Different situations require either of the two instruments; the position of your baby, the gestational age, or how difficult the doctor or midwife thinks the birth might be can all affect which instrument is used.

In order for these instruments to be used you may need an episiotomy - which is where the tissue between your vaginal opening and your anus is cut. It might sound scary but assisted birth is a very common standard procedure and episiotomy often forms part of that.

What are the reasons for Assisted delivery?

The reasons for assisted delivery can vary from labour to labour.

Mr Boret says: "Some of the factors that would increase the chances of a woman having an assisted delivery include very long labour, maternal exhaustion, big babies, induction of labours or fetal distress in the second stage of labour.

As well as this, maternal conditions where ‘pushing’ would be harmful to the woman e.g. some cardiac conditions, ophthalmic problems and some neurological conditions can also play a role."

What is forcep delivery?

This might sound a bit strange but the easiest way to describe forceps is to say they look like stainless steel salad tongs. The idea is that the prongs cradle your baby's head and pull it gently out of the birth canal.

What is a ventouse delivery?

A ventouse is a plastic cup that is placed on your baby's head and a gentle vacuum suction brings it out.

Sometimes there is a risk that your baby's head will be slightly swollen but the swelling will go down very quickly and will be completely gone by a few days.

Which should you choose?

Preference between ventouse and forceps usually differs according to the facilities at your chosen hospital or birthing facility.

"The choice of which instrument is very much dependent on who is carrying out the procedure. However, the occurrence and severity of vaginal tears tends to be comparatively less with ventouse than with forceps," Mr Boret says.

Whichever option happens the health care professional administering the delivery will be trained for every eventuality so there is no need to panic.

Can you do anything to prevent needing assisted delivery? 

Prevention is always a big question but the reality is that most of the time there is nothing more than making sure you are fit and healthy throughout all stages of your pregnancy.

Are there any risks/side effects?

Unfortunately as with most things during labour there are some side effects.

Mr Boret says: "Episiotomies are usually carried out with assisted deliveries and further, there is more of a chance of having a vaginal tear and this could affect the recovery period/prolong the recovery period slightly.

"If very severe, these could also damage the anal sphincter. There is also an increased risk of bleeding/hemorrhage from these tears. There is also the small increased risk of fetal injury if not carried out properly."
Injuries to your baby are very rare. However because of the increased risks of tears your recovery time could be slightly longer.

What happens after the birth?

Sometimes you will require a catheter (a small tube that is used to drain your bladder) for up to 24 hours, but this is also common if you have had an epidural so is nothing to panic about.

Where can I find out more?

If you want to find out more about assisted delivery then talk to your midwife or your doctor, you can also talk to our forum members about their birth experiences.


Parenting Editor
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