Updated 19 November 2014

Vacuum extraction

Vacuum extraction can be used in preference to a forceps delivery particularly if the mother has already had an epidural.


Why use vacuum?
This can be used in preference to a forceps delivery particularly if the mother has already had an epidural.

Vacuum delivery should NOT be used:

  • For preterm babies
  • For distressed babies
  • Where the mother cannot assist in the birth

It is used when there is a delay in the second stage of labour, but where an easy delivery is anticipated. Although some doctors say that the cervix does not need to be fully dilated before vacuum extraction, many others would disagree and insist that the cervix is fully dilated.

The baby’s head must be fully engaged – that is, fully in the final part of the birth canal.

How is a vacuum used?
A small metal cup which is attached to a vacuum apparatus, is passed into the vagina and placed on the baby’s head. This normally takes about 15 minutes.

When a vacuum is created, the cup sticks to the baby’s scalp. The doctor then gently pulls and the mother gently pushes, bringing the head down into the pelvis and then slowly and gradually delivering it.

There are few complications from this procedure, other than a slight swelling on the baby’s head which settles down after a day or two.

(Mandy Borrain, Health24)


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