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Can the rough handling of forceps during delivery lead to neurological injury?

Forceps are an instrument that is sometimes used in childbirth if it is a difficult delivery. When a labor becomes delayed or a baby is stuck in the birth canal and is starting to show signs of distress, a doctor may opt for a cesarean section or to use forceps.

Evacuating the child…gently

Looking like a large set of tongs, the forceps are placed on either side of the baby’s head to help extract the baby from the birth canal. If done correctly, this can speed up the delivery and prevent the baby from being deprived of oxygen for too long. However, the use of forceps can also have adverse effects, which can cause permanent injury to the child.

Complications associated with forcep use

Doctors have to be very mindful when using forceps as too much pressure can result in injury to the neck or spinal cord along with facial nerve damage, skull fractures, and cerebral palsy.


  • A spinal cord injury can result in paralysis, and the need for a lifelong caretaker. It can also led to bruising, cutting and swelling around the head.
  • Facial nerve damage can cause a child’s face to be permanently asymmetrical, becoming especially apparent when a child is laughing or crying.
  • Cerebral palsy occurs when the forceps damage the cerebrum of the brain, which is the part of the brain that controls motor functions including movement, sensory processing, and speech and language.

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