Sometimes childbirth does not progress as expected and your pushing may not be sufficient to deliver the baby. In a situation like this, your doctor may recommend vacuum-assisted delivery.
Also called vacuum extraction, vacuum-assisted delivery is a way to guide the baby through the birth canal and out of your body. It is an alternative to a cesarean section, but it involves certain risks.
Why might your doctor recommend vacuum-assisted delivery?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a doctor might recommend vacuum extraction out of concern for the health of you or your baby. For example, you may have a condition that makes prolonged pushing inadvisable, such as aortic valve stenosis, or there may be a change in the fetal heartbeat as detected on a fetal monitor.
Your doctor may also recommend vacuum-assisted delivery if your labor is not progressing. In other words, you have been pushing for a long time but the baby has not moved very far down the birth canal.
How does vacuum extraction work?
The tool used for the procedure is a vacuum pump with a handle attached to a cup made of a soft or rigid material. The doctor places the cup on the baby’s head and uses the pump to produce suction. While you are pushing during a contraction, the doctor uses the handle to guide the baby through the birth canal.
What are the risks to the baby?
Vacuum-assisted delivery can potentially cause severe injuries to the baby’s head, such as intracranial bleeding or skull fracture. The procedure increases the risk for shoulder dystocia, an injury that results from the baby getting stuck under your pelvic bone during delivery.
Vacuum extraction also poses risks of medical problems to you. However, these are usually of short duration and relatively minor.