A newborn baby with vacuum extraction complications clutching their parent's finger with their hand

During childbirth, the goal of everyone involved is to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. Occasionally, however, there can be issues that require the use of specialized medical equipment, like a vacuum extractor, to deliver a baby. What do you do when complications arise from the use of this equipment? The attorneys at Bachus & Schanker are here to answer your questions and help you through this difficult time.

What is delivery by vacuum extraction?

Vacuum extraction is a procedure in which a specially designed vacuum extractor is used to assist in a vaginal delivery. It helps the baby move more quickly through the birth canal when there is a problem with the natural process.

What are vacuum extractors and why are they used in delivery?

Just like it sounds, a vacuum extractor uses suction to pull the baby through the birth canal. The device itself is an electric or mechanical pump attached to a suction cup. That cup is inserted into the birth canal and placed on top of the baby’s head. The suction should then aid in a smoother and faster delivery.

Vacuum extraction can be used during the stage of labor where the mother is pushing, and the baby is ready to emerge from the birth canal. It’s a technique that’s usually only used when the baby is not coming out fast enough. 

Several things can happen if the baby stays in the birth canal too long. One of them is that the baby’s health can become jeopardized. The delivery team will monitor the baby’s vital signs during this process, and if they detect fetal distress, they will attempt to speed up the delivery. In most cases, this means using a vacuum extraction device. However, they might also try forceps, and if those don’t work, a C-section will be required.

Are vacuum extractions safe?

When used correctly by trained and qualified medical professionals, vacuum extractions are reasonably safe. There are some risks involved but nothing that should cause lasting effects. However, if the procedure is not done properly, there’s a much higher risk of injury.

Types of injuries caused by vacuum extractors

The complications during vacuum extractions can include:

  • Vaginal tearing and cuts for the mother
  • Nerve damage in the baby’s neck
  • Bleeding under the baby’s scalp or skull bone 
  • Cone-shaped head
  • Jaundice more likely for the baby
  • Brain or nerve damage
  • Hearing loss
  • Skull fractures
  • Brachial plexus injuries (such as Erb’s Palsy and shoulder dystocia)

Most of these injuries are not serious and will heal with time and treatment. However, in some cases, a question of negligence or medical malpractice may be raised. For example, vacuum extraction should only be performed for up to 20 minutes. Any longer than that increases the risk of injury. There is also a proper amount of suction to be applied, as too much suction can increase the chances of injury.

Vacuum extraction injury symptoms

It’s important to note that while most injuries and symptoms are visible within the first day after birth, some might not show up for weeks. These symptoms include the following:

  • Pelvic pain (mother)
  • Vaginal pain due to lacerations and bruising (mother)
  • Swelling of the baby’s head
  • Weakness or paralysis on one side of the baby’s face and/or body

Can vacuum extraction delivery cause brain damage?

In some instances, vacuum extraction can cause brain damage. If too much suction is used, it can cause brain bleeds or skull fractures. If the baby’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone — a condition called shoulder dystocia — this might cause the baby to go too long without oxygen, causing a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Side effects of vacuum extraction delivery

The list of possible side effects of vacuum extraction is extensive for both the baby and the mother.

Side effects for the mother can include:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Vaginal lacerations causing infection
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Anemia
  • Blood clots

Side effects for the baby can include:

  • Brain bleeds
  • Bleeding under the scalp
  • Cone-shaped head
  • Paralysis or weakness on one side of the face or body
  • Skull fractures

Treatment for vacuum extraction complications

Both the baby and the mother should be treated immediately upon detection of any symptoms. Most healthcare professionals will conduct thorough examinations to look for possible side effects. Common injuries, such as mild bruising on the baby’s head and lacerations on the mother’s vagina, should heal on their own within a few days. But more serious complications should be addressed accordingly.

How long does it take to heal from a vacuum extraction?

For typical injuries, both the mother and baby should completely recover within six weeks, but more serious injuries take time. Unfortunately, some vacuum extraction injuries are permanent, such as severe brain damage or palsy caused by improper extraction.

What compensatory damages are available for a vacuum extraction injury?

Healthcare professionals who perform vacuum extraction deliveries are required to be highly trained in the proper methods for use. Therefore, most of these injuries are preventable, especially the more severe ones. If you or your infant sustained any substantial injuries during this procedure, it’s very possible that negligence played a part in it.

While the amount you are eligible to receive in these cases may vary from state to state, there are two types of damages you can claim. One is economic damage. This can include lost wages, medical expenses, and medical devices. The other type is non-economic damage, which can include pain and suffering and physical impairment.

Should I seek legal compensation for a birth injury due to vacuum extraction delivery?

Birth injury lawyer discussing a birth injury case with their client

If you are unsure whether or not a birth injury is beyond the typical scope of what is expected, it may be beneficial to contact a birth injury attorney to learn more about your rights. In a case where the injury was possibly caused by negligence, you may be able to receive compensation to recover the medical expenses and pain and suffering this injury has caused you or your baby.

If your baby suffered a severe injury such as brain damage, you may be able to file a life-altering injury claim. The complications from a brain injury can be long-term and show up at any time. They can also be subtle and difficult to diagnose, requiring years of doctor visits and therapy. These costs can add up over time and should not be yours to shoulder alone. This is where your victim advocates at Bachus & Schanker can be invaluable to you. We want to get you the compensation you need and deserve. We are there for you every step of the way.

The attorneys at Bachus & Schanker are here to help you navigate the difficulties of a birth injury case. Contact us now for a free case evaluation.


Shoulder Dystocia: Signs, Causes, Prevention & Complications. (2022). 

Vacuum-Assisted Delivery. (2022). 

Vacuum Delivery. (2023). 

Vacuum Extraction Delivery. (2022). 

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