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Forceps Injuries Lawyer

A forceps delivery helps the mother deliver the baby when labor is not progressing through pushing alone. It is considered an alternative to C-sections, but it is not without risk. A forceps delivery can severely injure the mother and the baby, and only highly trained providers should attempt it. Our experienced forceps injury lawyers can help you pursue compensation if you or your child were injured in an improper or negligent forceps delivery.

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Our forceps delivery injury attorneys at Levin & Perconti are dedicated to helping parents hold health care providers accountable when they harm mothers and newborns through improper forceps deliveries.

A forceps delivery cannot accomplish birth as fast as a C-section in many cases, and a Cesarean delivery is often a safer choice. While every procedure carries risks, the potential for errors during forceps deliveries is high. Many practitioners lack the training to perform the procedure safely, and attempting the procedure can create an undue delay when a Cesarean section is warranted.

According to Statista, forceps are used in 0.5 percent of births—a drastic decline since 1990, when they were used in more than five percent of births. Assisted births are generally declining, but vacuum extraction is five times more common than forceps despite forceps being more effective.

What Is Forceps-Assisted Childbirth?

A forceps delivery is a form of assisted vaginal birth during which a provider uses a device resembling salad tongs to grasp the baby’s head. The provider then pulls the baby through the birth canal as the mother pushes. In some cases, forceps are used to rotate a baby out of an abnormal position between contractions.

The following types of forceps are used based on the baby’s position and location within the birth canal:

  • Outlet forceps are used when the head has reached the end of the birth canal, and the baby does not require rotation beyond 45 degrees.
  • Low forceps are used when the head is under the main protruding pubic bone, known as the ischial spine, and any necessary rotation is less than 45 degrees.
  • Mid forceps are used when the head is engaged but above the ischial spine.
  • High forceps are used when the head is in the top part of the pelvis.

Doctors often use specialty forceps to rotate the baby. Forceps should only be used for as long as necessary. If labor progresses after the baby is rotated, continued forceps use may not be needed.

Before inserting forceps, the health care team should administer pain medication. The practitioner may perform an episiotomy—an incision at the vaginal opening— and use a catheter to empty the mother’s bladder to prepare for the procedure.

When Are Forceps Typically Used?

A forceps delivery is an alternative to a C-section. Forceps may be used in the following circumstances:

  • Labor has stopped progressing despite the mother’s pushing.
  • The mother has become too exhausted to continue pushing.
  • The health care provider detects signs of fetal distress.

A competent health team can detect fetal distress through an external fetal heart monitor. When the heart rate becomes abnormal or recovers too slowly after a contraction, the baby will need to be born as soon as possible to prevent brain damage from oxygen deprivation.

When Should Forceps Be Chosen Over Other Assisted Birth Options?

The options for hastening birth include vacuum extraction, forceps, and C-sections. Forceps delivery is generally considered safer for the baby, while vacuum extraction is considered safer for the mother. Forceps may be chosen when vacuum extraction is contraindicated, such as when the baby is premature or requires rotation. Forceps should only be used when the following criteria are met:

  • The doctor has training and experience in forceps deliveries.
  • The amniotic membranes must have ruptured, also known as water breaking.
  • The baby has descended at least halfway into the birth canal.
  • The mother is fully dilated.
  • The baby’s position is known.
  • The baby’s weight is reasonably ascertainable.
  • A backup plan is in place and ready to implement if the forceps delivery is unsuccessful.

Forceps delivery should only be attempted when minimal assistance is needed to complete delivery. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it should be completed within three to four pushes, and noticeable progress should be perceivable within the first one to two. If birth will require more extensive effort, a C-section may be a safer option.

When Should Forceps Not Be Used?

Forceps deliveries require extensive knowledge about the anatomy of the mother’s pelvis and the baby’s head. The insides of the forceps are shaped to conform to the baby’s head. The outside parts are shaped to conform to the mother’s pelvis. However, proper positioning of the forceps and a precise application of pressure are essential to avoid serious harm, even with these features.

A doctor or midwife untrained in forceps use can cause significant harm to the mother or baby and should not attempt a forceps delivery. Even a slightly incorrect position of the forceps can cause significant tearing in the mother and head injuries in the baby.

Forceps are only an appropriate choice in limited circumstances. They should never be used in the following situations:

  • The baby is leading with the arms rather than the head.
  • The baby is too big to fit through the birth canal.
  • The baby is more than six weeks premature.
  • The doctor is unable to determine the baby’s condition.
  • The baby has a bone or bleeding disorder.
  • The mother isn’t fully dilated.
  • A C-section is clinically indicated.

While C-sections are considered major surgery with greater risks than a forceps delivery, the risk of allowing fetal distress to continue for too long has an even higher risk. Attempting a forceps delivery when the baby is already running out of time due to oxygen deprivation is dangerous.

Performing a prompt C-section without wasting time on an ineffective forceps delivery may be the only safe option. An untimely C-section can cause brain damage, fetal stroke, cerebral palsy, and other serious harm. If your baby has suffered harm because a provider attempted a forceps delivery when a C-section was necessary, our forceps delivery injury lawyers can help you hold them accountable.

Why Choose Levin & Perconti as Your Forceps Injury Lawyer?

We are a nationally recognized Chicago birth injury law firm that has been helping parents get justice for their birth-injured children since 1992. Our seasoned Chicago forceps injury attorneys include Dov Apfel and Seth Cardeli, renowned advocates for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities stemming from birth injuries.

Dov Apfel has lectured at national seminars for lawyers and judges to teach them how to determine the timing and causes of brain damage in infants. He is a “lawyer’s lawyer” who lawyers turn to for their birth injury cases.

Seth Cardeli is also a national birth injury litigation leader and mentor of attorneys. He recently lectured attorneys about fetal heart tracings.

Our knowledge of state and federal birth injury law is unmatched. Our years of experience have taught us how to formulate the most aggressive and effective strategy for each case. Our approach works. We have won more than $2 billion in settlements and verdicts for our clients.

Our consistent record of success is why lawyers nationwide send their most challenging cases to our firm. Our successful birth injury case results include the following:

We don’t settle for less than fair compensation. We are skilled trial lawyers who know how to win in court. In fact, our reputation works as leverage against our adversaries, who are often eager to settle to avoid facing us in court. This helps us get you the maximum compensation available.

When you have our talented Chicago forceps injury lawyers on your side, you can rest assured that we will fight for you as if you were our own family. We provide personalized attention and will go out of our way to ensure you stay informed throughout your case. Below are a few examples of the unsolicited client testimonials we regularly receive:

What Injuries Can Babies And Mothers Suffer from Forceps Deliveries?

Even when used properly, forceps carry a risk of minor harm to the mother and the baby. The risk for serious harm occurs when forceps are used inappropriately or in place of a medically necessary C-section.

Forceps Birth Injury Complications in the Newborn

Newborns commonly experience harmless cuts and bruises on their face or scalp from forceps deliveries. Some babies also experience facial nerve palsy, which is temporary damage to the nerves in the face. This condition typically resolves on its own within a few weeks.

However, it only takes a small amount of excessive force or improper positioning to cause severe injuries that may have a long-term impact, including the following:

  • Skull fractures, which could damage the brain
  • Intracranial hemorrhage, which may lead to bleeding in the brain, excessive blood loss, or intracranial pressure, all of which may lead to brain damage
  • Eye injuries, including corneal trauma, leading to long-term vision impairment
  • Fetal stroke
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spinal cord injuries from rotational forceps, commonly in the upper spine, which can lead to permanent quadriplegia
  • Shoulder dystocia from rotational forces, which could lead to Erb’s palsy and other nerve damage
  • Death

Maternal Birth Injuries from Forceps

The use of forceps is more likely to cause harm to the mother than vacuum extraction. The most common injury is perineal tearing, which increases the risk of the following:

  • Pelvic organ prolapse resulting in long-term complications
  • Tears in the rectal walls
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Anal sphincter injury
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Psychological trauma

When Is A Forceps Injury Considered Malpractice in Illinois?

Medical malpractice in a forceps delivery occurs when the health care provider fails to follow the reasonable standard of care, and you or your baby suffers an injury as a result. The following forceps-related errors may constitute medical malpractice:

  • Attempting a forceps delivery without the proper training
  • Using the wrong type of forceps
  • Pulling too hard
  • Attempting a forceps delivery when contraindicated
  • Delaying a C-section for too long
  • Rotating a fetus with the wrong amount of force
  • Positioning the forceps incorrectly
  • Failure to obtain informed consent
  • Failure to provide maternal pain medication to prepare for the procedure

Frequently Asked Questions About Forceps Birth Injury Complications (FAQs)

Your doctor should perform a thorough examination and screen for injury as soon as your baby is born. You may notice facial bruising, scalp injuries, and black eyes, which may not be serious. If you notice your baby has breathing difficulties, is feeding poorly, or fails to respond to stimuli as expected, you should alert the doctor as soon as possible. These may be signs of brain injuries.

Damages in forceps injury claims may include economic and non-economic damages, such as lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.

A forceps injury lawsuit may take several months to years to resolve, depending on the nature of the misconduct, the insurance company’s willingness to settle, and the amount of compensation at stake. Cases that settle tend to resolve more quickly than cases that require a trial verdict. Generally, the higher the compensation at stake, the more likely the insurance company is to fight and stall.

You may be able to pursue damages even if you signed a consent form, but it will depend on multiple factors, such as how the form is worded and your state of mind at the time of signing. Your case’s success will likely depend on whether you were fully informed of the risks. Our attorneys can retrieve and review the consent form you signed and determine whether you can still file a claim.

The Illinois medical malpractice statute of limitations is complex, but you generally have two years to file a forceps injury claim. When you contact a forceps injury lawyer at our office, we will determine how the statute of limitations applies to your unique case.

You should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Medical malpractice insurers are wealthy corporations that almost always reject medical negligence claims. The Chicago forceps injury attorneys at our Chicago law office have the resources and experience needed to fight these companies and win you the compensation you deserve.

Any health care provider that causes or contributes to the injury through medical negligence may be liable, including the following:


  • Obstetricians
  • Nurses
  • Midwives
  • Birthing centers
  • Hospitals

There is no upfront charge to hire one of our experienced forceps delivery injury lawyers. We will advance the cost of court filing fees, consultants, and all other costs associated with your case. If we fail to secure compensation, you owe us nothing. We take on all the litigation risks so you can confidently pursue the damages you deserve.

Contact Our Forceps Injuries Attorneys Today For A Free Case Review

When negligent health care providers cause harm, you shouldn’t be stuck with the bill. We are devoted to helping parents hold careless health care providers accountable and recover their full damages. Call our forceps injury lawyers today at (312) 332-2872 or use our easy online contact form.