Study Compares Birth Injury Risks of Forceps to Other Procedures

A recent birth injury study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology examined the comparative safety of using forceps during delivery. Use of forceps by obstetricians has steadily decreased in recent decades in favor of caesarean sections and deliveries assisted by vacuum devices.

The study, led by an obstetrician at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, concluded that forceps-assisted vaginal deliveries are associated with a lower risk of neonatal neurological problems than other techniques that have become more popular. The research focused on cases involving brain hemorrhage, seizures, scalp lacerations, fractures, facial nerve palsy, brachial plexus injuries and low Apgar scores.

One motivation behind the study was the lack of targeted research as to whether C-sections and vacuum devices are actually a safer way to deliver babies. At every critical stage of labor, poor choices on the part of delivery doctors, midwives and nurses can have a devastating effect on a baby's health.

Forcep-assisted deliveries of babies now represent less than one percent of delivery room procedures, down from five percent in 1990. Yet based on data from more than 400,000 births to first-time mothers, the authors found that use of forceps reduced the risk of seizure by 45 percent when compared to vacuum pumps and C-sections.

When representing a family with a birth injury claim, medical malpractice lawyers must take into account a range of complex evidence, from extensive medical records to evolving practice standards. Academic studies can provide a strong indication that procedures once thought safe need to be reevaluated, and begin to push medical professionals toward practices that are better for patients.

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