What is Vacuum-assisted delivery?

Vacuum-assisted delivery also known as vacuum extraction or Ventouse is a method where a vacuum device is used to assist the delivery of the baby. The vacuum device used is called as a vacuum extractor and is a soft cup that attaches to the baby’s head because of suction. Ventouse if performed properly is considered a better alternative to forceps delivery or a C-section (Cesarean) because it poses fewer risks.

When would a vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery be performed?

1. If your cervix is fully dilated but you’re still not able to get the baby out generally referred to as prolonged second stage of labour.

2. If the baby is not moving down the birth canal even after pushing for many hours.

3. Maternal exhaustion – If you’re tired of pushing for so long.

4. If it’s risky for you to put too much effort into pushing because of a medical problem (Cardiac problems, glaucoma, aneurysm etc)

5. If the baby is showing signs of distress during labour which is indicated by a change in the foetal heart-rate.

How is it performed?

An epidural or a numbing medicine is applied to the vagina to block out the pain. The plastic suction cup is placed on the baby’s head which will draw the skin from the scalp into the cup. The key to a successful vacuum extraction is the correct placement of the cup directly over the flexion point. And then the baby is gently pulled out as you push through a contraction. After the baby’s head is out, the mother is usually asked to push the rest of the baby out without any suction.

If Vacuum extraction fails, then a forceps delivery or a Cesarean will be performed.

Advantages of Vacuum extraction

1. An episiotomy might not be required.

2. Less force is applied to the baby in vacuum extraction than when forceps are used. This will mean that there are fewer chances that your baby will have scars on the face.

3. The mother still plays an active role in the childbirth and is not put completely under the influence of anesthesia, unlike Cesarean.

What are the risks?

1. There might be tears in the vagina or perineum due to vacuum-assisted delivery.

2. There can also be a little bleeding under the baby’s scalp which is bound to go away after a while and won’t lead to any serious problems.

3. The baby will be left with a temporary lump on the head known as a chignon.

4. The rate of failure to deliver the baby is higher in vacuum extraction when compared to using forceps which might mean that you’d need a C-section eventually.

Talk to your doctor about vacuum-assisted delivery and ask him/her if it’s an option for you to consider. 

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