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What is Vacuum-Assisted Delivery: What You Should Know About Vacuum Extraction?

February 22, 2023

Most women prefer a normal delivery as it is considered healthier and safer for the mother and the baby. Vaginal birth is believed to reduce the risk of many complications like a decreased need for blood transfusion, reduced risk of postpartum infections and uterine scarring. But sometimes, during the process of a natural vaginal birth, there can be certain complications or situations where an intervention may be required for delivery. One such intervention is vacuum-assisted delivery. Below is all the information you need to know about vacuum-assisted delivery and vacuum-assisted delivery complications:

What is Vacuum-Assisted Delivery?

Vacuum-assisted delivery, also called vacuum extraction, is a medical procedure that is done during normal vaginal birth. Vacuum extraction is done when the mother is exhausted from pushing and cannot do it anymore while delivering the child. The doctors use the help of a vacuum cup, which comes with a pump and a handle, to do the delivery. The vacuum cup is called the ventouse cup and is made of plastic and is attached to the baby's head. In a vacuum extraction, the doctor places the vacuum pump with a soft cup and a handle on the head to guide it to the birth canal. The vacuum-assisted delivery is done when the mother pushes it like a normal delivery.

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When and Why is Vacuum-Assisted Delivery Needed?

During vaginal birth, the baby is pushed out through the vagina. But during certain circumstances, there might be help needed. That is where vacuum-assisted delivery comes into the picture. The usual indications for vacuum delivery are;

  • The labour is not progressing even after taking enough pushing by the mother-to-be. After a certain time, the doctor may recommend vacuum extraction.
  • The other indications for vacuum delivery are when the baby's heartbeat becomes irregular or the doctor suspects an issue with the child's health.
  • The mother-to-be has a health concern, which is another indication of vacuum delivery. The doctor may recommend vacuum extraction when the mother has heart conditions. The mother is given a limited time for vaginal delivery and if not successful, this procedure is done.
  • The mother is too tired to push anymore.
  • A major indication for vacuum delivery is when the baby shows distress and has to come out faster than the mother can push on her own.

Vacuum-Assisted Delivery Complications

Indications for vacuum delivery can have risks both for the baby and the mother. Some of the vacuum-assisted delivery complications for the mother are as below:

  • There can be pain in the vagina and the anus even after delivery. This area of tissue gets stretched during childbirth and is sensitive. This vacuum-assisted delivery complication goes away with time and it is not uncommon to have sensitivity and pain in this area.
  • The vacuum-assisted delivery can result in vaginal tearing. This is quite painful but can be treated with dissolvable stitches.
  • Urination problems can also be one of the risks of vacuum-assisted delivery. The mother can have trouble urinating or emptying the bladder.
  • After a vacuum-assisted delivery, some women can have involuntary urination or bowel movements.

Most of the above are temporary and get resolved with treatment. The vacuum-assisted delivery complications for the baby may be:

  • Injuries on the scalp due to a vacuum-assisted delivery. The baby may have a cone-shaped appearance on the scalp or swelling that goes down after some days.
  • Due to the vacuum suction, there can be a fracture to the baby's head. This skill fracture is quite uncommon.
  • A vacuum-assisted delivery can cause bleeding in the skull as a vein in the head may be injured.
  • Another vacuum-assisted delivery complication is the possibility of the baby's shoulder getting stuck after the head is delivered.

What is the procedure for vacuum-assisted delivery?

The vacuum-assisted delivery procedure is as below:

  • An epidural or a local anaesthesia injection is given to block the pain during vacuum extraction.
  • The vacuum cup is then placed gently across the baby's scalp.
  • After the vacuum cup is placed in a balanced way, the circumference is measured so that the tissues of the cervical area or the vagina do not get stuck in between.
  • After measuring the circumference, the attachment suction is put in. The vacuum-assisted delivery device pressure is increased to ensure the cup is in the right position.
  • Once the needed pressure is reached, pressure is applied to the pelvis region to get traction.
  • During a contraction, the mother will be asked to push. The doctor or a nurse will then gently help the mother deliver the baby
  • If, even after using this device, the baby is not delivered. The mother may need to go for a C-section

When is Vacuum-Assisted Delivery not done?

There are certain circumstances when the doctor advises against vacuum extraction. It is not recommended if:

  • The pregnancy is less than 34 weeks.
  • The baby has certain medical conditions due to which there is a low bone density.
  • The baby's head has not moved from the Centre of the birth canal.
  • The baby's head position is unknown.
  • The baby's buttocks, shoulders, feet or arms come out from the birth canal first.
  • If the baby's size is such, it does not fit through the pelvis.
  • There is an increased risk of bleeding in the womb


Vacuum delivery is a good alternative when vaginal delivery is no longer possible. It can help protect the baby's and the mother's health and in some cases, is safer than vaginal delivery.

Must Read : Delivery Decisions: C-Section vs Normal Delivery


What is vacuum-assisted delivery?

A vacuum-assisted delivery is also called a vacuum extraction and is a medical procedure to help the baby come out of the birth canal when labour is stopped.

Is vacuum-assisted delivery safe?

Yes. It is recommended only under specific conditions and if they are not met, the doctor does not recommend this procedure. Vacuum extraction can help deliver a baby without going through surgery. When there are favorable conditions.

Is vacuum-assisted delivery painful?

No. It is not painful as a local anesthetic injection or an epidural is given to block pain. There can be sensitivity around the anus and the vagina after the procedure, which may last a few weeks.

Does vacuum delivery affect the baby?

Certain temporary risks of this procedure include a temporary lump on the head, bleeding in the space between the scalp and the skull, bleeding at the back of the eyes, newborn jaundice and skull fracture.

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