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An assisted birth using a ventouse or forceps is sometimes necessary in the final part of labour. Around 12% of births are assisted with either forceps of ventouse at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. An instrument is placed on the baby’s head to help guide the baby out and is only performed by an obstetric doctor. An instrumental birth may be performed in the labour room or sometimes in theatre. The reasons for needing an assisted birth can vary but usually include;

  • Concerns with your baby’s heart rate pattern that may indicate distress when fully dilated
  • The baby descending slowly into the birth canal during the pushing phase of labour
  • Maternal exhaustion

The process of an instrumental birth and the reasons why it is being recommended should be fully explained to you. Your midwife will support you throughout the birth and answer any questions you may have.

Risks associated with instrumental birth can include;

  • Bleeding from the womb or tissues around the vagina.
  • Bruising or marks to the baby’s head/face. Most bruising / cuts will go away in 2-3 days.
  • Tears involving the muscles around the vagina and rectum (3rd/4th degree tears).

It may be necessary for the doctor to perform an episiotomy (vaginal cut) to avoid any uncontrolled trauma to the muscles around the vagina (perineum) or rectum. This will only be performed with adequate pain relief. Repair of an episiotomy or tear will follow straight after the birth. Full aftercare will be discussed with you after your baby is born.

For full information about the procedure of an instrumental birth and the risks involved please read the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist patient information leaflet.

Providing there are no concerns about you or your baby after an instrumental birth there would be no reason for a longer stay in hospital, with many women able to go home the same day.

More information can be found about instrumental birth here.

Please visit our Birth Optimising page for information about reducing your chances of intervention in labour.