Vacuum Extraction Injuries

Vacuum extraction is a type of assisted delivery in which through the birth canal a small amount of suction is applied on a baby’s head. It is also used to turn the baby’s head during delivery. In vacuum extraction, the suction is controlled and only a low level of suction is used to extract the baby from the birth canal. There are some risks that are involved in vacuum extraction. It can affect the baby temporarily or can cause permanent damage.

What Is Vacuum Extraction?

Vacuum extraction is typically only done in case of a vaginal delivery. A soft cup with a handle is applied to the head of the infant. A small amount of suction is applied and it extracts the baby out of the birth canal. This type of method is used when the mother feels contractions and is having trouble pushing the baby out. It is usually recommended in the second stage of labor. In this stage, the labor may not progress as expected and the baby may require immediate delivery as its health depends on it. If this type of delivery fails, then a cesarean delivery is required.

Vacuum Extraction Causes

While vacuum extractions during delivery can cause complications, there are several cases in which the procedure may become necessary. A doctor may call for a vacuum extraction for the sake of the mother or to avoid potential harm to the infant. Even considering such risks, a vacuum extraction is not the preferred method.

Some of the most common reasons for a vacuum extraction include:

  • Prolonged second stage of labor in which no progress is seen for three or more hours with regional anesthesia or two hours without anesthesia
  • Fetal compromise such as changes in fetal heart rate pattern or abruption
  • To shorten the second stage of labor in cases in which the mother has a cardiovascular or neurologic disease
  • Maternal exhaustion that is more subjective in nature

Vacuum Extraction Prerequisites

The following may be some of the prerequisites for vacuum extraction:

  • Full dilation of cervix and ruptured membranes
  • The bi-parietal diameter should have passed through the pelvic inlet
  • Bladder should be empty
  • The current position of the head of the fetal baby must be known
  • Informed consent should be obtained

Vacuum Extraction Risks

Vacuum extraction can cause problems in both mother and child. Although rare, a vacuum extraction can cause pain and damage to the body of the mother. Infants are also at risk for developing injuries that may persist through childhood and even into adulthood.


The possible risks of a vacuum extraction for a mother may include the following:

  • Difficulty in passing urine for a short time
  • Wounds and tears in lower genital tract
  • Perineum pain after delivery
  • Anemia
  • Weakening of muscles and ligaments
  • Postpartum bleeding and infection

The potential vacuum extraction injuries for an infant can include:

  • Skull bleeding
  • Fracture of skull
  • Wounds on the scalp
  • Brachial plexus
  • Fracture of collarbone

Vacuum Extraction Selection

It is normally the expertise and experience of the doctor that determines the type of vacuum extraction used. There are typically two types of cups used for vacuum delivery. One is soft bell-shaped cup and the other is known as an “M cup.” The small bell-shaped cup is used in straightforward deliveries while the M cups are used in more complicated deliveries. Usually, fewer injuries occur when soft bell-shaped cups are used. When small bell-shaped cups are used, there is typically a lower risk of perineal injury in mothers.

Vacuum Extraction Injuries Treatment

After the delivery, the physician looks for any injury that may have been caused by vacuum extraction. The physician treats incisions or tears right away. The newborn baby is also monitored closely when vacuum extraction is done. Wounds such as tearing can cause residual pain in the mother for weeks after the birth. The child may suffer a variety of injuries due to a poorly performed extraction. In such cases, doctors will oversee treatment that could range from rest and pain medicine to inpatient treatment in an ICU.

Vacuum Extraction Injuries Legal Considerations

Before the mother opts for vacuum extraction, it is her right to know the benefits and risks involved in this type of extraction. An informed consent should be signed by the mother. If a mother feels that the problems that she or her baby has suffered from the delivery and suspects that the problems resulted from malpractice or negligence, it is critical to speak with a specialized birth injury lawyer. An attorney who specializes in birth injury cases can advise specific steps to take to seek justice.




“Vacuum Extraction.” Tests and Procedures. The Mayo Clinic. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. <>.

Ali, Unzila, and Errol Norwitz. “Vacuum-Assisted Vaginal Delivery.” Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology. MedReviews, LLC, 1 Jan. 2009. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. <!po=22.4138>.

“Assisted Delivery.” Labor and Birth. American Pregnancy Association, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 2 Feb. 2015. <>.