Improper use of forceps left a newborn baby with a deep wound in his neck that required surgery and left behind a visible scar. He was awarded:
The majority of expectant mothers deliver their baby safely and naturally, but at times this isn’t possible and an assisted birth may be necessary for the health of either the mother or baby. Undergoing a forceps or ventouse delivery can be a traumatic experience. However, if the obstetrician does not use the appropriate standard of care you and your baby are at risk of suffering significant injury. Thankfully the standard of care in Maternity hospitals in the UK is generally very good. But if you do suffer as a result of medical negligence during an assisted delivery, the consequences can be significant for both mother and baby.
Many victims of medical negligence, including those affected by a mismanaged forceps birth can be left feeling like there isn’t much they can do about their experiences even if they are left with physical and emotional problems. However, the Hospital and its clinicians can be held to account. If you’ve experienced medical negligence during an assisted delivery; if there were delays, complications or an injury to you or your baby, you have the right to an explanation as to what went wrong.
Every case is different but Your Legal Friend can guide you through each stage of the process, from investigating medical negligence to making a claim. Our expert team understands that making a claim cannot undo the negligence you experienced during a forceps delivery but it can help you recover, pay for medical costs, move forward and allow you to understand why the negligence occurred was able to happen.
Our team of specialist medical negligence solicitors work on behalf of victims of medical negligence in a wide variety of negligence cases, including representing those that have been affected by forceps and vacuum assisted birth complications. We have the know-how to ensure the best possible outcome for each individual case. We also work on behalf of families who have lost a loved one as a result of medical negligence. We recognise that the consequences of the negligence may be physical, emotional and financial. Throughout your case, we will do our best to provide you with the help and support you need.
If you or your baby has suffered an injury as a result of a forceps or ventouse birth and believe that you received poor treatment it’s better to start the process as soon as possible. There is a three-year time limit from the ‘date of knowledge’ where you learned that a mistake on your doctor’s part led to the pain and suffering you experienced to take into consideration. If your child has been injured the 3 year time limit does not apply, but it still better to look at these things whilst they are fresh in everyone’s mind. If you are unsure you can speak to one of our expert team today.
If you do not claim within the set time period, your claim will be considered ‘statute barred’ or ‘out of time’ and will unfortunately not be taken further. There are two exceptions to this rule, in the case of children and if the negligence directly led to a fatality. In these cases suing the NHS for negligence is still possible as the date on which time begins to run is the date of the child’s 18th birthday, and in the case of fatalities, from the date of death.
While it’s possible to make a compensation claim at any point within the three-year limit, doing so quickly means that the paperwork will be more readily available and helps to ensure that the details are still fresh in your mind while your case is being put together. Following any birth, we understand that parents are exhausted and this can be further amplified should complications of vacuum extraction or forceps delivery arise but we’ll be there to support you every step of the way, working on your behalf to deliver the best possible outcome with the minimum amount of stress placed on you during a crucial time.
Throughout your claim, Your Legal Friend will help you every step of the way
I am very happy and satisfied with the settlement you achieved for me and the service was excellent and thank you very much
Mrs E. Swaffield
Our team of specialist medical negligence solicitors has years of experience working on a wide variety of medical negligence cases, including supporting those that have been affected by vacuum and forceps delivery risks. We understand just how difficult a decision it can be to bring a medical negligence case against those responsible for your suffering.
That’s why we are committed to supporting our clients throughout the process and ensuring that your case is handled by an empathetic professional who will work alongside medical experts. Through our work we have built up a trusted reputation that you can rely on. We’re accredited by the Law Society, reflecting the quality of our medical negligence work and a supporter and panel member of Action against Medical Accidents. We’ve also gained Lexcel and Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) accreditations for high quality working standards.
Our medical negligence team is headed by Laura Morgan, a legal professional with a wealth of experience in medical negligence claims. For over 19 years Laura has used her expertise to represent those that have been affected, with particular experience in acting for children who have suffered brain injury due to mismanaged birth or surgical errors. Her efficiency and approach to case handling led to Laura being recognised in the Chambers guide to the Legal Profession, in which she was described as “tenacious and detail-oriented”.
The effects of medical negligence can be devastating for the individual and their families, so securing appropriate compensation for them as quickly as possible is our top priority.
Director of Medical Negligence
Pay nothing if you lose your case, get maximum compensation if you win
Whatever the nature of your birth injury claim, we always seek the maximum level of compensation for our clients – and if your case is unsuccessful, we don’t charge you any fees. This is our guarantee for all standard birth injury claims.
With our no win, no fee guarantee, you pay nothing, unless you win your compensation claim. At that point you will only pay your insurance premium, if applicable, and the success fee, which will never be more than 25% of the amount you win.
One you’ve decided to take your case for medical negligence due to forceps or ventouse delivery forward we will ask you to sign form of authority. This will allow us to obtain your medical records from your GP and any hospitals that have treated you.
We will need you to draft a detailed, accurate statement of your experiences in your own words. This statement will give us and the medical experts we instruct a better understanding of what happened during your treatment.
You are responsible for minimising the losses you have incurred as a result of the alleged medical negligence. For instance, after a forceps delivery you’ll need to attend any appointments that have been made to support and help you that could aid in your recovery, this also applies to treatment for the baby.
In order to bring a successful medical negligence, claim forward you’ll need to prove that the treatment you received fell below the standard expected of a reasonably comportment and skilful midwife or obstetrician. This will involve obtaining independent medical evidence from an expert with understanding and experiencing in forceps and vacuum delivery risks.
The effect that medical negligence has had on both mother and baby will be a consideration in the compensation process. It can be difficult to establish whether the sub-standard treatment that you experienced led to your injury or loss and as a result it may be necessary for you to see one or more medical experts. The experts will assess your current condition and long-term implications for your health.
The value of your claim will depend on a number of factors, comprising of:
If you experienced medical negligence while having an assisted delivery, you’ll need to keep all your original financial documents safe as these will be needed should your case go to Court. These documents could include medical treatments, receipts for expenses and payslips.
The majority of medical negligence claims, including those brought forward for vacuum and forceps delivery complications, are settled outside of Court. However, we prepare every case for this eventuality.
A trial takes places before a Circuit or High Court judge. A decision will be based on the evidence that has been prepared by us from the beginning of the claims process.
If you win your case, the amount of compensation will be negotiated with the defendants if it’s settled outside of Court or by a judge if it goes to trial. The defendant will usually also be ordered to pay us the costs we have incurred in preparing your case. We will also agree a date by which your compensation will be paid to us so that we can pay your compensation as quickly as possible.
An assisted birth, including forceps delivery, may be needed if there is a danger to the mother or baby. There are a number of reasons it may be necessary, including:
If medical professionals decide an assisted delivery is necessary there are two choices; a vacuum assisted delivery, also referred to as ventouse assisted delivery, or forceps assisted delivery. In the majority of cases both ventouse and forceps are safe and effective and an obstetrician will choose the type of instrument more suitable for each individual case. If a forceps or vacuum extraction is necessary, the procedure and risks should be explained to the mother by an obstetrician or midwife and consent should be obtained.
Around one in eight women in the UK has had an assisted birth to help deliver the baby’s head, according to the NHS. The majority of the time, assisted births are necessary for the health and wellbeing of mother and baby and are perfectly safe for both.
Forceps used in delivery are smooth metal instruments that are curved and designed to fit around a baby’s head. The instrument is carefully positioned around the baby’s head, and during a contraction, an obstetrician gently pulls to help deliver the baby. Forceps assisted birth could be necessary for many reasons and there are different types of forceps. Some, for instance, are specifically designed to turn a baby to the right position to be born.
A forceps assisted delivery is generally more successful than a ventouse in delivering a baby but there are still risks and the potential for complications or a traumatic forceps delivery that can pose harm to both the mother and baby.
The majority of the time assisted deliveries are safe for both the mother and baby and are only used when necessary. However, both forceps assisted delivery and vacuum assisted deliveries require a high level of skill and expertise and there are associated risks. These risks should always be explained to you beforehand by one of your medical team and verbal consent must be given or, if you are required to go into theatre, written consent should be obtained.
If a forceps delivery or ventouse birth is necessary and you haven’t already had an epidural, you will usually be given local anaesthetic to numb the area. In many instances this means the mother can’t feel the contractions and the midwife will tell her when to push.
After the birth it’s normal to feel pain, soreness or numbness as a result of an assisted birth and many women will need to take plenty of time to recover. Each situation is different and some new mothers may be required to stay in hospital for a couple of days after the birth and the community midwife may keep you on her list for up to 28 days after your baby’s birth if it’s taking you a while to recover physically.
The effects of ventouse or forceps delivery risks to the baby are generally minor and heal on their own in a short period of time. The effects of an assisted birth on the baby include:
One of the vacuum delivery side effects is a mark on the baby’s head known as a chignon. This is caused by the suction of the vacuum but it is typically only superficial and will disappear within 48 hours.
Another forceps and ventouse delivery side effect is cephalohematoma, a bruise on the baby’s head. This can occur in between 1 and 12 births out of 100 and disappears over time. While it can slightly increase the chances of jaundice it rarely leads to other problems.
The use of forceps can lead to marks on the baby’s face and head, these usually disappear within 48 hours. In around 1 in 10 assisted deliveries there will be small cuts to the baby’s face and scalp, again, these typically heal quickly and are superficial only.
As well as these minor effects of an assisted birth on the baby there are also more significant risks that are outlined below.
In the majority of cases, babies delivered through an assisted delivery are only affected in minor ways that will heal on their own. However, there are significant risks that should be considered in each individual set of circumstances.
A common concern among expectant mothers are the risks around forceps delivery and brain damage. The proper use of both forceps and vacuum extraction is essential to ensure the instrument is applied evenly to a baby’s head and without excessive force. Too much strain can lead to compression of the head, swelling in the brain and haemorrhages that can result in brain damage and resultant conditions, although this is very rare.
The wrong assisted delivery method or the technique being performed poorly can result in nerve damage occurring in a limited number of cases. Nerves injured in forceps delivery can result in facial palsy, the paralysis of the muscle in one side of the face.
There have been instances of babies being born blind or with permanent eye damage after a forceps delivery was not performed correctly. It is rare but medical negligence during a delivery can occur and have a lifelong impact.
Trauma during the birth can cause damaged to the ears and in some cases deafness. While this is rare,the injuries can be permanent, including those sustained due to a forceps delivery.
A traumatic forceps delivery could result in cerebral palsy in a limited number of cases. Cerebral palsy is the term given to a number of neurological conditions that affect movement and co-ordination, the severity of which varies. A traumatic delivery can cause cerebral palsy if excessive force or strain is applied to the baby’s head, causing brain damage.
Yes, in rare cases. Epilepsy and other seizure disorders can be caused by a traumatic assisted delivery if a skull fracture occurs or excessive force is applied during the delivery. Epilepsy is a common side effect of cerebral palsy, particularly in severe cases.
Studies have linked birth injuries to ADHD and autism. There are a number of injuries that have been indicated to be linked to disorders, included among these are injuries cause by forceps and vacuum extraction births, such as damage to the nervous system and swelling of the brain.
Both forceps and ventouse delivery complications can affect the woman giving birth. Before an assisted birth these risks should be highlighted and consent given. The risks include:
Some women may need to undergo an episiotomy prior to a forceps delivery. This is where a surgical cut is made between the anus and vagina to provide more room to help with the delivery of the baby.In some instances, mismanagement of the birth can lead to vaginal tearing that may require stitching, but often an episiotomy is performed before tearing is allowed to occur. These should be repaired, or sutured, with dissolvable stitches to support the healing process.
According to the NHS, third or four-degree vaginal tears are an injury that between 8 and 12 women in 100 experience when undergoing a forceps delivery. The risk is lower when a vacuum extraction device is used, with 4 in 100 women experiencing tears. The figures compare to just 1 in 100 women experience a third or fourth-degree vaginal tear during a normal vaginal birth. Risk of blood clots
Ventouse and forceps delivery side effects can include increasing the risk of blood clots forming in the veins in the legs and pelvis. Medical professionals should advise you to move around as much as possible after the birth to lower the risk of this. Women may also be advised to wear specialist anti-clot stockings and have injections of heparin too.
Incontinence is a common side effect after childbirth. However, it is more common among those that have had an assisted delivery. Research suggests that around 30% of women experience urinary incontinence after birth and they should be offered physiotherapy-directed ways to help with this. If third or fourth-degree tears have been a complication of vacuum delivery or forceps usage, there is also a greater risk of anal incontinence.
A ventouse or vacuum extractor is an instrument that is attached to the baby’s head by suction. Vacuum extraction involves a soft or hard plastic or metal cup being fitted firmly to the baby’s head, before an obstetrician or midwife gently pulls to help deliver the baby.
The device used to perform a vacuum extraction is also known as a ‘kiwi’ and the method is sometimes also called kiwi cup delivery. Birth by vacuum extraction is not suitable if the baby is being delivered at less than 34 weeks as the baby’s head is too soft. The suction cup results in a chignon, where the suction cup used leaves a small swelling on the baby’s head. However, this does disappear quickly, as should any bruising that it causes. A ventouse delivery is typically not as successful as a forceps delivery but it is less likely to cause vaginal tearing.
In most cases vacuum delivery is safe and an essential decision to ensure that both mother and baby are healthy. Assisted delivery, both through vacuum and forceps delivery do carry risks and require a skilled obstetrician to carry out the procedure to ensure risks are minimised. These risks should always be explained to you beforehand and consent should be given.
As with a forceps delivery, you are usually given local anaesthetic before a vacuum delivery. As a result, the actual delivery should not be painful. However, after the birth it’s likely you’ll need some time to recover physically and it’s common to experience pain, soreness and numbness in the intervening days. Your condition should be carefully monitored by a midwife who will ensure you heal fully and will be able to offer advice.
In most cases babies delivered by vacuum delivery are only affected in minor ways, such as bruises and light cuts that quickly heal. But there are risks that should be considered and can cause long-term damage to the baby affected.
Research has shown that autism can be linked to birth injuries, including those sustained through a ventouse delivery. In rare cases a vacuum delivery can damage the nervous system and the baby’s head, which may lead to autism and other associated disorders, such as ADHD.
The improper use of a vacuum extractor can result in brain damage. Failure to use an assisted delivery instrument properly can mean that too much force is applied to the baby’s head or that the pressure is unevenly distributed. There are rare cases where this has led to skull fractures and brain damage.
A traumatic delivery where excessive force or strain is applied when assisting a birth with a vacuum extractor can cause cerebral palsy. The severity of the condition varies and depends on a number of factors but in the majority of cases it affects movement. A common side effect of cerebral palsy is seizures or epilepsy.
In order to make a successful claim for medical negligence compensation you must be able to demonstrate that the level of care that either the mother, baby or both received was sub-standard. You should be able to rely on your midwife, obstetricians and other medical professionals to deliver an excellent standard of treatment. If this hasn’t been the case, you may be able to pursue a birth injury claim for compensation.
During assisted deliveries there are several ways medical negligence can occur, including:
There are several factors to consider when choosing between a forceps delivery or a vacuum assisted birth and the wrong choice could have an impact on the health of both mother and baby, such as scaring to the baby’s face or vaginal tears. Medical professionals should take each personal situation into consideration in order to minimise the risks while ensuring the safe delivery of the baby.
The majority of the time, forceps and vacuum births are safe. But if the instruments are used incorrectly it can lead to damage that could have been prevented, such as lacerations of the cervix or extensive scaring to the baby’s head.
If a baby is distressed or in an awkward position it can be vital that either a forceps delivery or vacuum extraction is performed quickly. Delays can cause further problems and while it’s important that the procedure is done correctly, the speed to make the decision and how quickly the solution is delivered can also be a contributing factor to forceps and ventouse birth side effects.
During the birth of the baby or while recovering afterwards you are right to expect proper treatment that meets your needs. However, sometimes bad treatment can lead to other issues, for instance a poorly repaired episiotomy could result in an infection, or failure to advise may mean blood clots are more likely to develop.
We understand that making a medical negligence claim can’t undo the damage, pain and stress you have endured as a result of forceps or vacuum extraction delivery complications. However, if you feel that medical malpractice has caused you suffering and distress at a time oin your life that should have been among your happiest, compensation can help you to adjust to your circumstances and potentially make your situation that little bit easier to manage.
If after experiencing forceps or vacuum assisted birth complications you were required to take additional time off work in order to recover, compensation could help you cover the loss of income. If either the mother or baby that experienced a traumatic forceps delivery or vacuum assisted birth requires additional medical attention or long-term medical treatment, compensation too can help ensure that you receive the best treatment possible.
As well as financial compensation, a medical negligence claim can help you to hold those responsible for the damage to account and help you understand why you were failed by the health care system.