Vacuum extraction is an intervention used in labors in situations where the baby may need assistance exiting the birth canal. Although vacuum extraction may be beneficial to a woman’s delivery, it is not without risk and should be understood prior to labor in order to enable to woman to make the most informed and educated decision for herself, her situation and her baby.
What is vacuum extraction?
A vacuum extractor is a relatively simply suction device composed of a soft, plastic cup which has a long tub running out of the center and is attached to a pump that creates a vacuum seal when on. Some vacuum extractors have a metal cup rather than a soft plastic or silicone cup, however, these metal cupped extractors are rarely used in American hospitals. These vacuums may be manually powered by a hand pump, or controlled by an electrical pump.
How is a vacuum extractor used?
The soft rubber or silicone cup is placed on the baby’s head. The pump is turned on creating a suction and the physician will attempt to guide the baby’s head through the birth canal with the aid of the vacuum.
What are some reasons vacuum extraction may be needed?
Vacuum extraction may be considered necessary if the baby is showing signs of fetal distress such as heart decelerations. However, if the baby needs to be born urgently, forceps are typically chosen over vacuum extraction, as vacuum extraction may take half an hour or even more to complete due to the vacuum losing suction or having to be repositioned. Vacuum extraction may also be necessary in cases where the mother is exhausted from a prolonged second stage labor, or where it is important that the mother not make voluntary pushes, such as in the case of a woman with certain cardiac issues.
What are the advantages of vacuum extraction?
Vacuum extraction may help a woman avoid a cesarean, as well as any complications or risks that are associated with a cesarean.
Vacuum extraction may also lessen the burden of pushing on the mother by providing assistance in getting the baby out once she is fully dilated.
Unlike forceps, vacuum extractors do not require as much room for their use, making it less likely for the woman to tear due to its use.
What are the disadvantages of vacuum extraction?
The mother may be at greater risk of tearing than if she were to give spontaneous vaginal birth.
The baby is more likely to suffer from scalp injuries as well has have an oddly shaped head due to the vacuum. The head shape usually resolves itself quickly and returns to the normal shape.
Putta, Lakshmidevi V., and Jeanne P. Spencer. “Assisted Vaginal Delivery Using the Vacuum Extractor – September 15, 2000 – American Family Physician.” Home Page — American Academy of Family Physicians. Web. 24 Sept. 2010.
Levine, Douglas. “Who Needs a Vacuum-Assisted Delivery? Information on Healthline.” Health Search Engine and Free Medical Information – Healthline. Feb. 2006. Web. 24 Sept. 2010.
Johnson, Robert V. Mayo Clinic Complete Book of Pregnancy & Baby’s First Year. New York: W. Morrow and, 1994. Print.
Kitzinger, Sheila. The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth. New York: Knopf, 1989. Print.