This term is used to describe a vaginal delivery that is assisted by the use of an instrument. It may also be referred to as an operative vaginal delivery. Between 5% – 20% of all births are instrumental or operative vaginal deliveries.
The instruments most commonly used are forceps or vacuum/suction devices. Many instrumental deliveries take place in a hospital delivery room but around 1 in 20 will take place in an operating theatre. Both devices can also be used to assist a caesarean section delivery.
Forceps are metal instruments which are shaped like large spoons and cradle a baby’s head. Vacuum or suction devices look like cups and are placed onto a baby’s head and a vacuum is created. Both devices help guide the baby through the birth canal during the contractions, while the pregnant woman continues to push.
A decision may be made with a pregnant woman for an instrumental delivery when the baby is not moving down the birth canal as expected, if the pregnant woman has a medical problem which may place her at risk of complications if she keeps pushing, or where a baby is showing signs that they are not receiving enough oxygen.
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Understanding Birth Injuries
- Labour and delivery