Birth injury to Pennsylvania baby points to dangers of using forceps

While the use of forceps during birth may be necessary, it does not come without risk, as one Pennsylvania family learned.

The birth process likely looks different for every family. Some people in Pennsylvania go to hospitals, some have the baby at home, some opt for an epidural, some try to go without any medicine. In any case, the hopeful outcome is that at the end, there is a beautiful little miracle welcomed into the world.

Unfortunately, when medical professionals or facilities are negligent in some way, that beautiful little miracle could suffer devastating injuries. Such was the case for one Chambersburg family now dealing with the consequences of the use of forceps.

The injury

According to a federal judge, a now-5-year-old will need to be supervised for the rest of his life due to events that took place during his birth. In 2012, a couple went to a federally funded health center for delivery. According to Penn Live, forceps were used, which led to severe brain damage.

The child is not able to express himself and will eventually be confined to a wheelchair. Additionally, he may never be able to read or write, and he is prone to having aggressive outbursts.

The parents of the child sued the federal government. After a six-day trial, a judge ruled that the family was owed nearly $42 million. Penn Live reports that the verdict is likely the biggest medical malpractice verdict to ever take place in Pennsylvania's middle district.

The dangers of forceps and vacuum extractors

Though forceps have been in use in the delivery room for decades, many people are still unaware of the risks they present. According to the Mayo Clinic, injuries to the baby may be rare. But when these injuries do happen, they can be severe and can have life-altering consequences Those injuries could include the following:

  • Trauma to the eyes and face
  • Fracturing the skull
  • Seizures
  • Bleeding in the skull

Mothers could also suffer injuries when forceps are used. There are physical problems, such as tears and wounds. Also, long-term consequences could include incontinence, weakened muscles and anemia.

The same is true of vacuum extraction. This technique uses what is basically a giant suction cup placed on the baby's head. While a vacuum is on the whole not as dangerous as forceps, the use of a vacuum can - just like forceps -- cause life-altering injuries when used improperly.

How to be safe

There are safe alternatives that may be attempted before the use of forceps of vacuum. These tools are used when labor appears to be stalled, the baby is in the wrong position, or the infant's heartbeat indicates an issue. The Mayo Clinic notes that using medications or adjusting an anesthetic could encourage labor to progress. A cesarean section is another alternative. Each of these options also carries its own risks, which should be evaluated. If forceps or a vacuum are be used, the physician should explain the risks and also ensure that the mother consents.

Anyone who is concerned about birth injuries caused by improper use of forceps or vacuum should speak with a personal injury attorney in Pennsylvania.