Birth with a suction cup: This is how your baby is born

Sometimes at the last stage of labor it is necessary to help the child. With the use of the suction cup, the birth is accelerated and the baby is gently pulled out by the resulting vacuum. Here you can find out how a birth with a suction cup works and what possible risks it entails.

What is a suction cup?

The so-called suction cup – also called vacuum extractor – is a bell-shaped instrument consisting of a bowl connected to a small vacuum pump and a handle for pulling. It is always used when a birth has to be brought to an end quickly and a caesarean section is no longer possible. In this case, in the final stages of labor , the shell is placed on top of the baby’s head and adjusted to the shape of his head. A vacuum is generated by a suction pump, which causes the bell to stick firmly to the head. With every contraction that occurs, the suction cup is pulled so that the baby can pass the last piece of the birth canal as quickly as possible.

Figure: Use of the suction cup during childbirth

Variants of the suction bell

  • Soft plastic cups that cause minor injuries to your baby’s head, but slip off more easily.
  • Semi-rigid plastic shell suction cups, which have the greatest success rate.
  • Suction cups made of metal shells, which don’t slip off as easily as the soft shells, but may injure your baby’s scalp.

Which shell is used at birth depends on the position of the baby and the difficulty of the birth.

Reasons for a suction cup birth

The following reasons speak in favor of its use:

  • The baby’s heartbeat pattern and heart rate indicate severe stress.
  • The micro blood test shows the baby has a critically falling pH value.
  • The mother or baby has reached the end of their physical (and mental) strength.
  • An illness forbids the expectant mother to push hard.
  • There is a potential hazard to the child, such as insufficient airflow.

Preparing for a suction cup delivery

The use of the suction cup is usually not specifically planned, so it cannot be compared to a planned caesarean section. The doctor and midwife always have to decide spontaneously whether the intervention is necessary or not. This is usually not foreseeable.

Before obstetrics are used, the doctor will inform the expectant parents about the possible consequences and risks of the procedure. Before the procedure begins, the mother-to-be is usually given a pain reliever if she has not already had an epidural . In some cases, once the anesthetic works, an episiotomy is done to widen the birth canal a little and make the birth easier. In addition, the bladder is emptied using a catheter.

There are various prerequisites that must be met in order for a birth with a suction cup to be carried out:

  • The child must be in the cranial position and must have slid down far enough for the obstetrician to reach the head.
  • The head must fit easily through the pelvis.
  • The cervix must already be fully dilated.
  • Doctors and midwives must have a good command of the technology.

The course of a birth with a suction cup

Before the doctor puts on the suction cup, the right size is estimated. Then he puts the bowl on the baby’s head. This is connected to a vacuum bottle or suction device by a hose. The vacuum exerts a slight suction on the child’s head. While the expectant mother pushes to support you, the baby is pulled out of the pelvic outlet by pulling on the suction cup. After the head is born, the vacuum is released, the suction cup is removed, and labor can proceed normally. Complications are extremely rare, as caesarean section is performed in cases of doubt and vacuum extraction is only used when there are good prospects for a spontaneous birth.

Alternatives to birth with a suction cup

Alternatives to ventouse births are caesarean sections and forceps births . Both methods are suitable for bringing a stalled birth to an end as quickly as possible. A forceps delivery can be performed faster than a suction cup delivery; therefore, it is preferred when the situation is an emergency. However, it requires more experience and technical skill on the part of the obstetrician, since there is in principle a higher risk of injury. Which of the methods is used depends on how far along the birth is, how experienced the obstetrician is, and the health of the mother and child.

Possible risks of birth with ventouse

In principle, birth with a suction cup is considered to be a relatively low-risk procedure. In most cases, there will be a fist-sized lump on the child’s head after birth. This is usually harmless and disappears completely within the next few days. It also does not permanently change the shape of the baby’s head.

Compared to a forceps birth, the birth with a suction cup is less risky in terms of maternal injuries. It also usually causes less pain and discomfort. The pelvic floor muscles are also not stressed as much. In rare cases, the mother’s perineum could tear during childbirth due to the strong pressure or a previously performed episiotomy could tear further. In the rarest of cases, the vaginal tissue is injured. In all three cases, stitches are needed after the birth.

A suction cup is not used for premature babies because of the risk of cerebral hemorrhage.

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