08:15 09 June 2009
Labour can be tough, but you are not on your own! Most women in child birth are attended to by medical professionals, and they are there for encouragement and to help your baby into the world. This article also appears on www.bbc.co.uk/parenting/having_a_baby
The three main ways for the medical team to help your baby into the world are by using:
Forceps and ventouse are sometimes known as 'instrumental delivery' as they use tools to assist the delivery of your baby. They are used in the second stage of labour, where the baby is part way down the birth canal (vagina) but for whatever reason can't get any further, is progressing too slowly, or if the baby needs to be born quickly. See our feature Stages of labour for more details.
Ventouse or vacuum extraction - this is a silicone cup fixed to a suction pump. The cup goes over the baby's head, and stays in place with suction. The mum pushes with each contraction while the doctor pulls on the ventouse. This can cause a swelling on the baby's head but this will disappear in the first few days.
Forceps - these are two spoon-like instruments which fit together and which are placed on each side of the baby's head. Again, the mum and doctor co-ordinate their pushing and pulling to help the baby come out. The baby may have a mark on either side of his head, or even bruising, where the forceps have been. These marks fade in a short time.
"...try changing your position in labour..."
You'll be asked to lie flat on your back, and your legs are then raised and supported at the ankles in stirrups. You'll then be given a local anaesthetic (unless you already have an epidural in place). You will probably be given an episiotomy (a cut made to enlarge the opening of your vagina so the baby can be delivered safely), so there is room for the insertion of the forceps or ventouse cup. This will be stitched up after the birth.
You and your baby may feel a bit bruised and sore afterwards. Recovery from an assisted birth can take longer than an unassisted birth. There is some evidence that ventouse is less damaging for you than forceps, but forceps may be less distressing to your baby than ventouse.
The vast majority of mums and babies make a full recovery from forceps or ventouse.
Try changing your position in labour - an all-fours position, or supported squatting, can help move things along better than lying flat.
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