After a relatively complication-free pregnancy, I’d expected Cyrus’s birth to be no different. So what was it like having a forceps delivery at 40 years old? Well, I’d had many meetings with consultants and midwives. I’d drawn up a birth plan and had opted to use the midwifery-led birthing unit at my local hospital.
I was ready to have an intervention-free birth with my husband there beside me to wipe the beads of sweat from my brow (just like on One Born Every Minute). Little did I know what was in store.
None of what I went through had been in my birthing plan which I’d designed in meticulous detail with the consultant. I had a Pitocin-induced labour after I couldn’t take the contractions any longer and opted for an epidural.
There were an abundance of wires and tubes coursing across my body, and the various beeps and pings vibrated through the otherwise silent room where I lay hoping for a positive outcome.
My husband stood at my bedside as the midwife hurried here and there attending to various tasks. Up until that point, she had performed her duties with a smile. Within minutes, her expression had gone from awww to this is terrifying.
C’s heart rate dropped and they needed to get him out quick. The use of forceps was not something I’d even considered, but it led to the little fella below being born safely and that’s the main thing.
So what would I change after this experience? I think reflecting on what I’d gone through on the big day, I’d certainly have asked more questions about induction and assisted birth.
Numb thinking about forceps
The thought of forceps still makes me shudder because years later I still haven’t recovered from the PTSD of it all.
Forceps deliveries are quite common in the UK (about 1 in every eight births) and they’re most common when labour is long, the baby is distressed and spontaneous delivery is likely to be slower.
Doctors tend to recommend a forceps delivery if:
- the baby is showing signs of distress, such as a decreased or increased heart rate
- the baby is in a difficult position to be delivered
- the mother needs help delivering the baby, for example if she has been in labour a long time and has become too exhausted.
Doctors recommend forceps if the baby needs to be born quickly. For example, if there is an immediate risk to the mother or baby’s life, like in Cyrus’s case.
The use of forceps depends on the individual case and the wishes of the mother – which I didn’t know. Doctors may recommend forceps if the mother has planned a vaginal birth and needs assistance.
Second stage of labour
The second stage of labour begins when the mother’s cervix is fully dilated. By then, the baby is normally at the mid-cavity of the mother’s pelvis. If the baby is low down in the birth canal, forceps delivery may be less risky than a section.
If the baby is low down in the birth canal, an emergency caesarean section may not be wise. The baby would need to be pushed back up the birth canal in order to be delivered by caesarean section. Therefore, in some situations, forceps may be the safest mode of delivery. There is some risk to the mother/baby, but all options carry some risk. If the baby has progressed far down the birth canal enough for forceps to be used, they should seek consent. Mid-cavity forceps are bigger than others and are used when the baby is further up the birth canal.
Why are forceps used?
Doctors recommend forceps to minimise the risk of injury and help your baby to be born safely. Forceps can help mothers who wish to have a vaginal birth avoid a caesarean section. Forceps are recommended if a caesarean section is risky or if the baby will be delivered quicker than by section.