Study Notes that Obstetric Trauma to Mothers and Babies Due to Forceps Use has Increased in Canada

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ)earlier this summer shows that operative vaginal deliveries where forceps or a vacuum are used have led to more injuries to mothers and babies.

Operative Vaginal Deliveries in Canada

Operative vaginal delivery refers to any delivery where forceps, a vacuum, or other devices are used to help delivery the baby by extracting the baby from its mother.

Operative vaginal deliveries in Canada fell from 16.8% of all vaginal deliveries in 1995, to 13.2% of all vaginal deliveries in 2014. In the same time-frame, c-section delivery rates grew from 17.6% to 27.3%. Operative vaginal delivery began to get recommended as a countermeasure to these increased rates of caesarian deliveries.

The Study

The study in question sought to determine the association between the use of operative vaginal delivery and rates of obstetric trauma and severe birth trauma. It reviewed data from almost two million singleton births (i.e. birth of one child) in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario in the decade between 2004 and 2014.

Obstetric and Birth Trauma

The study found that during the period studied, the use of operative vaginal delivery decreased, but the risk of injury to both mothers and babies from such procedures increased.

Between 2004 and 2014:

  • the rate of C-sections was 26.6% for woman having their first child;
  • the rate of operative vaginal surgery was 18.2% for women having their first child;
  • the rate of obstetric trauma during operative vaginal delivery rose from 16.6% to 19.4% among women who with their first child, and from 13.8% to 18.7% for women who had a previous c-section (VBAC).

Obstetric Trauma to Mothers

The rates of obstetric trauma were most notable where there had been a forceps delivery for first time mothers, with the study noting an increase from 19.4% to 26.5% in the decade studied.  

The most common forms of trauma suffered by mothers were severe perineal lacerations and obstetric anal sphincter injury, both of which can result in debilitating consequences including serious pain, formation of abscesses, incontinence (i.e. inability to control bowels or bladder) and sexual dysfunction, among other side effects.

Birth Trauma to Babies

The study also noted an increase in trauma to babies during operative vaginal deliveries.

Severe birth trauma suffered by babies as a result of operative vaginal delivery included intracranial hemorrhage and laceration, skull fracture, severe injury to the central or peripheral nervous system, fracture of the long bones, and injury to the liver or spleen. Cephalohematoma was not listed.

Some Cautionary Conclusions

Giulia Muraca, the lead author of the study, is now examining what may be behind the rise in injuries related to forcep and vacuum use during delivery. She notes that one possibility may be that today’s OB-GYN’s are not as skilled as they used to be in performing such deliveries. 

Ultimately, while the report warns policy-makers to be cautious when recommending surgical vaginal delivery without improved training, it also concurrently warns against completely abandoning the use of operative vaginal delivery.

How Can a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Help?

Children or mothers injured due to medical error or negligence during childbirth, including injuries suffered during an operative vaginal delivery, may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and can bring an obstetric malpractice claim to recover damages.

Such claims often raise complex questions of both medicine and law and require representation by lawyers with in-depth knowledge and extensive medical malpractice trial experience. At Sommers Roth & Elmaleh,  we consider obstetrical negligence/obstetrical malpractice to be our area of focus. We have recovered millions of dollars for clients affected by birth injury, as demonstrated by the cases we have successfully litigated. Our clients have been able to use such money to pay for their care, their child’s care, therapies, equipment, medical supplies, modified housing and transportation, and other necessary expenses.

If you or your child were injured during birth, we can walk you through the process of making an obstetric malpractice claim,  help explain what sort of compensation you may be able to obtain, and outline exactly what the process of filing a claim and proceeding with it will entail.  A consultation with our team is completely free– you pay us nothing unless we win.

At Sommers Roth & Elmaleh, we have been helping patients and families whose lives have been impacted by medical malpractice for more than 40 years. We have assisted clients in all parts of Ontario and from all across Canada, including Newfoundland, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Call us at 1-416-961-1212 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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