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Forceps Birth Injury Malpractice Questions & Answers

Our birth injury lawyer have a strong interest in medical malpractice cases involving the negligent use of forceps during the childbirth process. Our attorneys provide another page discussing forceps malpractice claims and their settlement value. This page focuses on frequently asked question in forceps birth injury lawsuits.

What Are Forceps?

cerebral palsy MarylandForceps are a medical tool that has been used since the late 16th century. They look like a pair of tongues and are used to maneuver the baby out of the birth canal during childbirth. Doctors frequently use forceps improperly and in the wrong situations which lead to medical malpractice lawsuits.

But forceps do have a place in the toolkit of a prudent OB/GYN. In fact, there are malpractice lawsuits for failure to use forceps when the circumstances required their use to assist and expedite delivery. When used properly and under the right circumstances, forceps reduces delivery time and makes childbirth faster and easier, particularly when glaucoma, heart disease, hypertension, aneurysm, or just plain maternal exhaustion makes pushing a challenge.

The use of forceps, when used properly, is only to assist contractions. If forceps are doing more work than that, the doctor should not be using forceps. The doctor uses the forceps to pull and then decrease the pull when the contraction is over to move the fetus along.

Forceps are particularly safe absent of fetal distress. Because there is less of a panic which often leads to mistakes. The obstetrician can check the placement of the head and forceps and pull gradually.

How Commonly Are Forceps Used in Childbirth?

The use of forceps during the childbirth process is on the decline. Today, forceps are used in only .5% to 1.1% of vaginal deliveries. Forceps use is falling because the medical community has come to understand that a vaginal delivery should not be attempted in many cases because a c-section is a safer path than trying to force a challenging vaginal delivery.

In many negligent failure to use forceps claims we talk about above, the collateral argument in that a vaginal birth was not the correct path in the first place because a c-section was the more medically appropriate path.

Percentage of Births Delivered
When Is Forceps Use Appropriate?

First, the child's head has to be engaged enough for a mid-forceps delivery. This means that the child's head has entered the mother's pelvis.

Of course, this requires that the doctor knows where the baby's head is in the first place. Knowledge of the exact position of the fetal head is critical for proper forceps placement. You cannot be using this medical instrument if you do not know where the baby's head is located.

The use of forceps under these circumstances without an engaged fetus or without knowing the precise location of the baby's head is not innocuous in spite of what many defense lawyers will tell you. It is often the cause of lifelong birth injuries.

There are other requirements that, when ignored, often lead to birth injury claims.

  • The doctor needs to have a firm grasp on the baby's head. It the doctor loses a grip on the child's head, there is a very good chance of a viable malpractice case if there is a resulting injury.
  • The mother's membranes must be adequately ruptured, and the cervix must be fully dilated (10 cm or more) and retracted.
  • The fetus has to be in a good position. The head should be down and not transverse.
  • A vacuum cannot have been unsuccessfully attempted
  • Any case of cephalopelvis disproportion

Child During Delivery There is one other big requirement before using forceps. The OB/GYN has to be experienced, well-trained and skilled in using forceps. There are many medical negligence cases where the doctor does all of the right things but simply does not know how to use forceps properly. Delivery by forceps has the potential to cause real damage to the baby's head and can cause brain damage. Negligent use of forceps can also cause stress to the baby's neck and spine and facial nerve damage if the OB does not know how hard to squeeze the child's head with the forceps

What Types of Forceps Malpractice Cases Do Your Lawyers See?

Approximately one-third of birth injury malpractice lawsuits involve the use of forceps. Most forceps malpractice cases involve the use of forceps in spite of the fact that it is well known that forceps should not be under the particular circumstances of that specific childbirth.

Must the Doctor Notify the Mother of the Use of Forceps?

There is a split of opinion on this question. Some courts believe that forceps are an extension of the surgeon's hands and informed consent is not required. But, obviously, there are a lot of flaws in that argument. Clearly, this is a medical device that comes with risks.

But, from a medical perspective, the choice is easy. In fact, the use of forceps, rather than a c-section, can often result in birth injury medical malpractice. So if the doctor is using forceps, it is often that case that a c-section is a possibility. She also could have thought a vacuum delivery was a better choice under the circumstances. These are choices our birth injury lawyers believe should go to the patient. These are material risks that the patient must know and led to choices that only the mother should make.

How Does a Mother Know If There Was Negligence?

The only way to know if the OB/GYN was negligent is to collect all of the relevant medical records and have them reviewed by a lawyer and ultimately by an expert witness. (All of this is done by our law firm with no out of pocket expense or risk to the victims.)

With forceps injuries, one clue is an injury to the child's head or the mother. If the child has a head injury with forceps marks, there is a pretty good chance there as a misapplication of forceps. Similarly, if the child has bleeding, eye trauma, facial injuries or skull fracture, there is also reason to suspect a forceps related injury. Finally, if the doctor tells you that multiple attempts were made with the forceps, you know that something may have gone wrong.

How Do You Win a Negligent use of Forceps Case?

The first thing you have to do is hire the best birth injury lawyer that you possibly can. (Should you look at our law firm and our history of success if you are in Maryland or anywhere else in the country? Absolutely.) You will also need the best medical experts. At a minimum, any birth injury case involving a brain injury is going to require that you have an OB/GYN expert and a pediatric neurologist expert.

Is It Easy to Get a Settlement in a Birth Injury Case Involving the Misuse of Forceps?

Most birth injury cases, included forceps-related birth injuries, settle before there is a trial. The amount of money and risk involves pushes everyone towards a settlement as a compromise. But it is the rare birth injury case that gets settled without a lawsuit and a lot of pre-trial battles. Little effort is required from the victims. This is most battles between lawyers about experts and fact witnesses and other details in the workup of a birth injury case.

Getting a Lawyer for Your Malpractice Claim

If your child has suffered a birth injury and you believe the failure to discontinue Pitocin could have been a contributing cause to the harm done to your child, call Ron Miller or Laura Zois today and let's talk about your options. We have a track record of success in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases. We can help you and your child get the compensation your family needs and deserves. Our law firm is based in Maryland. But we have handled cases all over the country, and the cost is no different if you are located outside of Maryland. Call Miller & Zois today and speak to our birth injury medical malpractice lawyers at 800-553-8082 or get an online case evaluation. Keep in mind that if we do not win your case, you do not pay us anything.

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