Forceps  –  are often described as looking like stainless steel salad servers.  They are quite large and the curved ends are called blades.

Reasons for Forceps Use

  1. Delayed second stage. What does this mean?  Most hospital policy allows for about 2 hours second stage, then, if there is not much progress, (according to hospital policy) forceps will be considered.
  1. Position of baby – eg. If baby is in a posterior position then forceps may be used to rotate the head
  2. If the woman has an epidural, and therefore no urge to push.
  3. Foetal distress – i.e. baby’s heart rate drops and/or there is a lot of meconium, it is necessary for baby to be born quickly.
  4. Vaginal breech birth – for the aftercoming head
  5. Maternal exhaustion – i.e. Mum has no energy left for pushing effectively.
  6. Sometimes used where pushing would be detrimental to the mothers health, e.g. a heart condition or very high blood pressure.


How Are They Used?

  1. The cervix needs to be fully dilated
  2. Most women have an epidural.  Most women would want an epidural.
  3. Bladder should be empty.  Sometimes an in/out catheter will be used or she may already have an epidural and therefore an indwelling catheter.
  4. The woman is on her back, in the lithotomy position with her legs in stirrups.
  5. Episiotomy is almost routine
  6. There are 2 blades which are inserted one at a time and placed around each side of baby’s head.  The Dr. then interlocks the handles.
  7. With the next contraction the woman is encouraged to push and at the same time the Dr. exerts pressure (pulls) on the handles or rotates the baby’s head.
  8. Once the head has been delivered the forceps are removed and the woman can push the rest of her baby out.

VENTOUSE  -also called Vacuum extractor and suction cap (yes, awful language!).  The cap is made of silicone.  It fits onto the baby’s head rather like a skull cap.  Once the cap has been positioned, air is sucked out of it by means of a vacuum device.

Reason for Ventouse Use  –  same as for forceps.  It takes a few minutes to apply enough suction to ensure that the cap is firmly attached.

HOW ARE THEY USED  –  Probably the main difference is that a woman does not necessarily need to have an epidural with the Ventouse.  In the hands of a skilled doctor, she should also be able to avoid an episiotomy