Vacuum extraction is a form of intervention used by physicians during childbirth in situations where the labor and delivery has stalled. It is used to help pull and guide the baby out of the birth canal. This is done with the use of a vacuum extractor device which consists of either a soft or hard cup attached to a vacuum pump. The cup is attached to the baby's head and used to pull at the same time the mother pushes during contractions.
Not every injury of this type is the result of medical malpractice on the part of the delivering physician. However, in cases where the injury could have been prevented but was not, the physician may be liable to financially compensate the family for the child’s injuries.
If vacuum extraction is performed incorrectly or used in inappropriate circumstances, it can result in injury to the baby or mother. Most potential injuries to the mother are relatively minor, but injuries to the baby could be catastrophic. Such injuries might include, but are not limited to, skull fractures, shoulder dystocia, retinal hemorrhages, Erb’s palsy and cerebral palsy.
This method of delivery assistance should only be used in very specific circumstances because it involves a risk of injury to both mother and baby. Some of the situations where it is not recommended for use include:
- when the baby's head is less than half way through the birth canal
- if the baby is less than 34 weeks in gestation
- for a baby that is too large to fit through the pelvis
- when the mother is not fully dilated
- when operating facilities are unavailable to perform an emergency cesarean section