safe motherhood



Instrumental deliveries are carried out using forceps or ventouse.

You might need some help to give birth if:

• You have been pushing for a long time
• You are exhausted
• Your baby's heartbeat shows signs of distress.


Forceps look like stainless steel salad servers and the curved ends, which cradle your baby's head, are called `blades'. If you do not already have an epidural in place, you will be given a local anaesthetic to make sure that you feel nothing. Your midwife will help you put your legs up in stirrups and the doctor will make a cut (episiotomy) through the back of your vagina to enlarge the opening. He then places the forceps gently round your baby's head. When you have your next contraction, you push and the doctor pulls to bring your baby into the world.

'I hadn't wanted forceps, but by the time I'd been in labour 18 hours, I was desperate for it all to be over. It was a bit frightening, but James was fine except for a few bruises on his face which soon disappeared.'
(Leila, aged 20, Barnstaple)

Most doctors are experienced with forceps, but a forceps delivery may still bruise your baby's head, damage your bladder, and mean that having sex is uncomfortable for some time after the birth. So you might choose the ventouse instead.


The ventouse is a small silicone plastic cup attached to a vacuum device. Suction is gradually applied to remove the air from the cup and make it adhere to your baby's head. You will probably not need an episiotomy for a ventouse delivery so you will find it less traumatic than forceps. However, it can take 7-10 minutes to apply the suction and sometimes the cap slips off the baby's head and has to be reapplied. The top of your baby's head will be swollen for a few days after her birth. Not all doctors are experienced with ventouse.

'I didn't hurt at all after the ventouse. I was fine. Sophie's head looked odd for a few days which upset me, but now she looks perfectly normal!'
(Chris, aged 25, Glasgow)