What Happens In A Vacuum Assisted Delivery?

What Happens In A Vacuum Assisted Delivery?

A vacuum-assisted delivery or vaginal extraction is a procedure that aids vaginal birth when the baby has descended into the birth canal and the mother's pushing is not sufficient.

The process involves pulling the baby’s head using a vacuum cup in  order to easily guide it out through the birth canal. This is done during the course of labour supplementary to the pushes of the mother. A soft and firm vacuum cup with a handle is used for the procedure.

It is mostly done if the labour doesn’t progress or if the health condition of the baby is such that it requires urgent delivery. For instance, a baby may be short of oxygen or the heart rate may have gone down and an urgent delivery may be required.

In case the vacuum extraction doesn’t work, your doctor may opt for an emergency C-section.

Requisite Conditions For Vacuum-Assisted Delivery

A vacuum-assisted delivery can only be done under certain circumstances. Here  are some conditions upon whose occurrence a vacuum assisted delivery is performed:


  • Cervix is fully dilated.
  • Membranes are ruptured.
  • Baby has come down into the birth canal.
  • The baby’s head is descending first.

Reasons Why a Vacuum-Assisted Delivery May be Essential

A doctor may opt for vacuum extraction in one of the following cases:

Prolonged labour

If you have been pushing for a long time and there seems no movement in the position of the baby it means that your labour isn’t progressing and you may need a vacuum extraction.

Abnormal heartbeat for the baby

If there are abnormal changes in the baby’s heart rate and an immediate delivery is required, your doctor may suggest vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery.

Mother’s health condition

Some health conditions such as aortic valve stenosis may aggravate in case of prolonged labour. In such cases, a vacuum-assisted delivery may be suggested.

Conditions Where Vacuum-Assisted Delivery is Not Recommended

Your doctor may advise against vacuum extraction in one of the following cases:

Gestation age is less than 34 weeks.


  • Threatening medical conditions affecting the baby's bones such as osteogenesis imperfecta.
  • Not enough change in the in the position of the baby’s head after the long duration of labour.
  • Confusion regarding the exact position of the baby’s head.
  • Breach position of the baby, i.e., when the legs go first into the birth canal instead of the head going first.
  • Issues with baby fitting inside the pelvis due to a small pelvis size or bigger size of the baby.

Risks Associated With a Vacuum-Assisted Delivery

While it is an aiding process, it may pose certain risks for both, the mother and the baby. They are as follows:


  • Perinium pains: The perineum is the tissue patch between the anus and vulva and may pain after delivery.
  • Tears in the genital tract: This may happen if the baby comes out with more pressure.
  • Difficulty in urination: While this is usually short-term, it is still quite painful.
  • Lack of control over urination and defecation: Short-term or prolonged incontinence is one of the major risks associated with vacuum-assisted delivery.

Since there is a chance of these risks with unassisted vaginal delivery as well, your doctor may need to perform an episiotomy before performing a vacuum-assisted delivery. This is done in order to make more space for the baby without causing long-term risks to the mother as mentioned above.

Here are some risks associated with vacuum extraction that may affect the baby:


  • Scalp wounds.
  • The possibility of shoulder getting stuck in the birth canal.
  • Skull bleeding or fracture (rare).

Trust your doctor!

A vacuum extraction is a great way to assist vaginal delivery but an emergency  C-section may follow if it doesn’t succeed. Your doctor will monitor it throughout the process and take the call in order to avoid the risks.


Also read: When Is A Forcep Delivery Required


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