Forceps deliveries

Forceps are instruments designed to aid in the delivery of the fetus by applying traction to the fetal head.Many different types of forceps have been described and developed.Generally, forceps consist of 2 mirror image metal instruments that are maneuvered to cradle the fetal head and are articulated, after which traction is applied to effect delivery.

    Forceps have 4 major components, as follows:

          • Blades: The blades grasp the fetus. Each blade has a curve to fit around the fetal head. The  blades are oval or elliptical and can be fenestrated (with a hole in the middle) or solid. Many blades are also curved in a plane 90° from the cephalic curve to fit the maternal pelvis (pelvic curve).

         • Shanks: The shanks connect the blades to the handles and provide the length of the device.They are either parallel or crossing.

           • Lock: The lock is the articulation between the shanks. Many different types have been designed.

  • Handles: The handles are where the operator holds the device and applies traction to the fetal head.

  • Vacuum delivery

An alternative to forceps delivery is a vacuum extractor — a metal or plastic cup attached to the baby's head that uses suction to help guide him or her out of the birth canal. The vacuum extractor prevents the baby's head from moving back up the birth canal between contractions and can be used to assist the mother while she is pushing during contractions. Vacuum extraction is becoming more popular in obstetrical practices and offers a good alternative to both forceps and C-section under the right circumstances.


The indications for vacuum extraction are the same as forceps — and while both are safe if performed by experienced practitioners, vacuum deliveries are associated with less trauma to the vagina (and possibly a lower chance of needing an episiotomy) and less need for anesthesia. Babies born with vacuum extraction may experience some swelling on the scalp, but it is not serious, doesn't require treatment, and usually goes away within a few days.