Increased risk of NICU admission with a high-force vacuum assisted delivery

If complications arise during birth, a doctor may choose to use one of two instruments to help the delivery: either forceps or a vacuum. A vacuum extractor, also known as a ventouse, is a small metal or plastic cup that uses suction to help the baby out of the birth canal. Typically, a doctor will apply the suction instrument to the top of the baby’s head and gently pull. This is not without risks however, vaginal tearing can occur along with: 


  • Additional pain in the vagina and perineum after birth 
  • Risk of anemia and weakening of pelvic muscles 
  • Possible infant skull fracturing or bleeding  
  • If vacuum assist fails, a doctor may choose to perform a C-section instead


There is no clear research that determines an upper limit of the force of the vacuum used during a vacuum-assisted delivery – known as traction force. A new study by Pettersson and colleagues aimed to determine if a high traction force, which results in more pressure on the infant, is a risk factor for infant morbidity.  


Records from patients in a Swedish hospital system within a 2.5 year span who had a vacuum-assisted delivery at term were studied. The researchers found that in the cases where a high-level traction force was used (25% of the total patients), there was a 3 fold increased risk of NICU admission. Ultimately, the researchers reached the conclusion that “...high‐level traction force is associated with adverse neonatal outcome” (Pettersson et al, 2020).  


If a doctor failed to uphold the expected standard of care and caused you or your baby undue injury during an instrument delivery, call The Holton Law Firm to speak with Tennessee birth injury lawyers. We can discuss your situation and eligibility for compensation. Contact us today by starting a live online chat on our website. 

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