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Forceps! Why The Bad Rep?

You just have to utter the word “forceps” and you can see everyone in the room cross their legs and shudder!

Even if you don’t know what forceps actually look like or what they are specifically used for, they will probably not be going on your birth plan! You will most likely have heard some kind of horror story about forceps and will be hoping that you do not encounter them at any stage on your way to becoming a mother!   But do you need to worry?

Why The Bad Rep?

Quite simply, they have a bad reputation,  so bad in fact that people often joke that your Midwife or Obstetrician may even wave a set of forceps at you in order to encourage you to push harder.  But are they really that bad and is there any point worrying about them? Do you get to choose if you have forceps or an alternative (Ventouse or Caesarean Section)?

What Do New Mums Say?

We asked our amazingly supportive and knowledgeable community on Instagram and they had some positive and some negative feedback. We are sharing it all.

I Got The Choice

“Luckily I got to choose! I heard the word forceps and proceeded to try and get off the bed and tell my husband ‘we’re going home, I’ve had enough’. The doctor said we can use the ventouse instead but you need to make a decision now.  I opted for ventouse. I was grateful my doctor took the time to listen to my choices.”

Are They as Bad as They Sound?

“As a Obstetric Nurse…yes! They’re as bad as they sound. The doctor has to put all their weight into pulling the baby’s head down which ALWAYS tears momma. The repairs after forceps take hours. There is good success with mom getting in hands and knees to push when forceps may be indicated.”

My Daughters Were Born Safely

“I’ve had two forceps deliveries with episiotomies. The first was in theatre. “One more go and we will do a C-section” was the last thing the said before my daughter was born. The force they used was ridiculous, my husband was holding me under my arms to stop me being dragged down the bed.  I was battered and bruised and have been left with ligament damage that needs to be repaired surgically, when I have finished having children.  My second delivery was a lot quicker and easier as she wasn’t back to back like my first but they intervened because foetal heart rate was dropping.  Ultimately though both my daughters were born safe and sound and possibly wouldn’t have been without instrumental delivery and that is the main thing.”

We Need Informed Choice

“I work with many mums after forceps deliveries and at the end of the day – healthy baby right? But women suffer in huge silence about pelvic floor damage after some forceps deliveries. We need a more informed choice for women and preparation so that this really is a last resort option. Which is why everyone must do these antenatal classes and be more aware.  You should be aware of the need for internal strength and be aware of the amazing help you can get from women’s health physiotherapists.”

What Do The Experts Say?

Our Expert, Consultant Obstetrician Caroline Wright has this to add-

”I can absolutely say that forceps are not as bad as they sound!  They are clonking great bits of metal and they look so invasive but they can be so gentle. There are lots of scenarios where it will be much safer for baby to use forceps and not ventouse, particularly when ventouse is unlikely to be successful. In over ten years of doing forceps deliveries I have never had any kind of significant injury (although there are rare cases of fractures in very difficult deliveries).

It has to balanced against the other option of doing CS in these very difficult cases which could end in significant haemorrhage and other complications for the mother. You probably wouldn’t put instrumental delivery as your first option on the birth plan but if it’s needed, go with the flow. If it something that really worries you, speak to your obstetrician before you go into labour, it’s good to be informed and make plans for labour in advance.”

Would You Like to Know More?

If you would like to know more about Forceps Delivery and the other forms of assisted delivery then please do sign up to do our Antenatal Course.  



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