Feature | Newborn baby after birth in hospital | What Is A Vaccum Extraction Delivery?

What Is A Vacuum Extraction Delivery?

Are you curious about what vacuum extraction is? We will break it down for you here.

In this article:

  1. What Is Vacuum Extraction?
  2. Who Qualifies for Vacuum Extraction?
  3. What Causes Vacuum Extraction?
  4. When Is It Time to Consider a Vacuum Extraction?
  5. Why Can’t I Have Vacuum-Assisted Delivery?
  6. Do Doctors Recommend Vacuum Delivery?
  7. What Are the Possible Complications of a Vacuum Extraction Delivery?
  8. How Safe Is Vacuum Extraction for My Baby?
  9. What Is the Difference Between Forceps Delivery and Vacuum Delivery?
  10. Where Is It Safe to Get a Vacuum Extraction Delivery?
  11. Can Vacuum Delivery Cause Brain Damage?
  12. Does a Vacuum-Assisted Birth Hurt?
  13. How Can I Avoid a Vacuum Extraction Delivery?

How Does Vacuum Extraction Delivery Work

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What Is Vacuum Extraction?


A vacuum extraction delivery is also known as a vacuum-assisted delivery. This procedure is done only during vaginal birth.

A vacuum, a plastic or metal cup with a handle, and a vacuum pump are applied to the baby’s head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. The vacuum helps to keep the baby from moving back into the birth canal in between contractions. Vacuums assist mothers as they push to deliver the baby.

Note that it does not pull the baby out. You still need to push, momma!

Once your baby’s head is out, the vacuum will be removed, and you can push the rest of your baby out. The advantages of vacuum extraction are it may help you avoid surgery you do not really need.

Who Qualifies for Vacuum Extraction?

There is a qualification list for a vacuum extraction delivery. Here are a few:

  • if you are having a vaginal birth
  • if you are pushing but your labor does not progress
  • when the baby’s heartbeat suggests that an immediate delivery is necessary
  • if you have a particular health concern. Some health concerns like a cardiac disease might mean your doctor will limit the amount of time you push
  • if you are exhausted of pushing

What Causes Vacuum Extraction?

You’ve been in the delivery room for a while, but your baby is still inside. Your doctor might suggest a vacuum-assisted delivery if you meet these criteria:

  • The cervix is fully dilated.
  • Your membranes have ruptured.
  • The baby has already descended, but you cannot push your baby out.

When Is It Time to Consider a Vacuum Extraction?

This will be the suggestion of your doctor during labor, but it cannot be performed without your consent.

Before you approach your due date, talk to your doctor about how skilled he or she is with vacuum extraction. Some doctors prefer to explore this option before going straight to a C-section.

It is best to always be clear with your doctor by talking about your birth plan.

Why Can’t I Have Vacuum-Assisted Delivery?

There are qualifications for this method, but there are also reasons you may not qualify. Here are a few:

  • You are less than 34 weeks pregnant.
  • The baby has a condition that affects his or her bone strength like osteogenesis imperfecta. Another is a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia.
  • Your baby’s head is not yet past the midpoint of your birth canal.
  • The doctor does not know the position of the baby’s head.
  • The baby’s shoulders, arms, buttocks, or feet are leading the way through your birth canal.
  • Your baby might not fit through your pelvis due to his or her size or the size of your pelvis.

Your doctor might also have other reasons depending on your medical history.

Do Doctors Recommend Vacuum Delivery?

All deliveries have risks, whether it’s a cesarean section or vaginal birth. There are fewer doctors who are still skilled and trained in a vacuum extraction delivery, though.

This method also poses some rare risks to the mother:

  • Higher chances of lacerations like tearing around the vagina, rectum, or urethra
  • Short-term urinary incontinence
  • Increased blood loss

What Are the Possible Complications of a Vacuum Extraction Delivery?

There are a few possible complications mothers should know. Here are some:

  • Hematoma, a formation of blood under the skin. There are two types: cephalohematoma and subgaleal hematoma.

Cephalohematoma Definition: This happens when a collection of damaged blood turns into mass between the scalp and skull of a baby.

Subgaleal hematoma Definition: This happens when there is blood that accumulates outside of the infant’s skull.

  • Intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding inside the skull. It is rare, but it can lead to loss of memory, speech, or movement in the affected area.
  • Neonatal jaundice, due to the possible bruising the vacuum may cause. Bruises are damages to the blood vessels and the blood breaks down to produce bilirubin. Jaundice is an oversupply of bilirubin. Jaundice usually resolves itself or it may require phototherapy.
  • Skull fracture (also a risk in C-section deliveries if the baby’s head is already very low in the pelvis)

RELATED: Different Ways Of Giving Birth: Methods And Delivery Explained

How Safe Is Vacuum Extraction for My Baby?

There are a few possible complications. When it is performed properly, it poses fewer risks than prolonged fetal distress and cesarean delivery.

Here are some risks to be aware of:

  • Minor facial injuries like bruising
  • Temporary facial muscle weakness
  • Bleeding
  • Superficial scalp wounds and swelling, which will resolve itself in a few days. The common risks of a cone-shaped head are less likely to occur these days because of the development of softer plastic or Silastic suction cups.
  • Retinal hemorrhage or bleeding in the back of the eyes. This can be common in newborns and usually goes away without causing complications.

What Is the Difference Between Forceps Delivery and Vacuum Delivery?

Forceps delivery uses forceps, similar to oversized salad tongs, to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. The vacuum delivery uses a vacuum.

In a forceps delivery, half of the forceps is gently slid onto one side of the baby’s head. The other is gently slid on the other side so it cradles his or her face. Once you contract and push, the forceps will be used to guide the baby out of the birth canal.

Doctors still use both methods today, but how risk-free the procedure are depends on the skills and experience of your doctor.

Where Is It Safe to Get a Vacuum Extraction Delivery?

A cesarean delivery might be needed if the vacuum-assisted delivery is not successful. It is only appropriate in a hospital or birthing center because these can perform emergency cesarean deliveries.

Can Vacuum Delivery Cause Brain Damage?

A successful vacuum-assisted delivery can pose less risk than cesarean delivery. However, there have been cases when it has caused mechanical injury trauma to a baby’s skulls.

Severe physical force or improper placement can injure the baby’s brain. When done incorrectly, it may severely damage the brain, cause bleeding, and result in cerebral palsy.

Does a Vacuum-Assisted Birth Hurt?

Your doctor will administer adequate anesthesia if you undergo vacuum extraction delivery. It can be epidural or local anesthesia inserted into the vagina.

Your doctor may also perform an episiotomy, though it is less common now with this method. Soreness and pain are normal after an episiotomy.

How Can I Avoid a Vacuum Extraction Delivery?

There are a number of things you can do to help ensure your labor progresses well. These are:

  • Stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy. It is not an excuse to eat everything!
  • During pre and early labor, avoid overexerting yourself and thereby tiring yourself out. Conserve your energy for when you need it.
  • During labor, try not to lie on your back. Stay upright and active.
  • Stay hydrated. This will reduce your chances of maternal exhaustion so you have the energy to push when necessary.
  • Try to avoid having an epidural or wait an hour after full dilation.

Watch this video that demonstrates guidelines on vacuum technique from The College Video Portal:

YouTube video

Talk to your healthcare provider about vacuum extraction pros and cons during your next appointment. Nothing beats early preparation. This way, months before you give birth, you have already studied your options and have chosen the best method for you and your baby.

Did we answer your questions about a vacuum extraction delivery? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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