Close Close
Mother and Baby

What Happens When You Have A Forceps Birth

Sometimes your baby needs help during the pushing stage of labour and your obstetrician may use forceps to deliver him

If during labour, your baby’s progress down the birth canal has slowed down or he’s becoming distressed, your midwife may consult an obstetrician about the possibility of doing an assisted delivery. This means he’ll use either a ventouse or forceps to help your baby be born.

Forceps look like large metal salad tongs. They come apart separately, but can click together. They’re designed to fit around your baby’s head and cradle it, not squash it.

Deciding on an assisted delivery

‘Your baby needs to be in good shape for an assisted delivery – this means that he has a strong, healthy heart rate and is not in distress,’ says Christian Barnick, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital. ‘You need to be 10cm dilated and your baby’s head needs to be at the opening of the cervix and fully engaged.’

Forceps look like large metal salad tongs

Before the proceduce goes ahead, your obstetrician may first try a ventouse delivery as this causes less internal issues than forceps. If this doesn’t work, your obstetrician will reassess and decide if your baby can take another attempt at an assisted delivery, and move onto forceps.

‘Forceps are often used if the baby needs to be born quickly, as they’re a much faster method of delivery,’ says Christian. ‘However, they can be slightly more painful.’

Your pain relief

If you haven’t already, you will be given some form of pain relief before the forceps are inserted. ‘We’d usually recommend an epidural if this hasn’t already been given, or a pudendal block. This is when anaesthetic is injected into a nerve in your vaginal wall to numb any pain in that area,’ says Christian.

If the birthing team are in a rush to get your baby out, there may not be time for an anaesthetist to administer an epidural, and a pudendal block will be faster.

The forceps delivery

‘The obstetrician will slide in one part of the forceps, then the other, fit them together, and then when you have your next contraction, he’ll ask you to push while he pulls,’ says Christian.

As your baby’s head is crowning, the obstetrician may make a small cut on the skin at the edge of your vagina, called the perineum, which is known as an episiotomy. ‘This isn’t always necessary and may not happen, but does in the majority of cases, as it helps your baby’s head be born,’ says Christian.

When you have your next contraction, he’ll ask you to push while he pulls

After the birth

Throughout the delivery, your obstetrician should be chatting to you explaining what is happening. After the birth, you’ll be stitched up if necessary.

‘Your baby may have red marks on his face from the forceps,’ says Christian. ‘These should disappear after a couple of days.’

Forceps can affect your pelvic floor by damaging the muscles around it, although some of the damage may also be caused by a long labour or large baby (which are often the causes of an assisted delivery in the first place).

However, if your baby needs to be born quickly, they’re often the best option. The delivery method that's best suited to your particular circumstances will be used and this can vary from birth to birth.

Related content:


No comments have been made yet.

Chinese Gender predictor
Chinese Gender Predictor

Are you expecting a boy or a girl? Tell us the month you conceived and how old you are, and this clever little tool will predict the rest! 

Nappy rash is painful for parents as well as for your baby
Nappy rash is painful for parents as well as for your baby

Read Dr Pixie's guide to learn how to deal with nappy rash

The Magic Sleepsuit
The secret to a quiet night’s sleep – The Magic Sleepsuit

If you’re little one is struggling to settle now they’ve outgrown the swaddling stage, this could be the answer to your sleep-deprived prayers!

Celebrating parenting's small wins
Celebrating parenting's small wins

As mums, we're constantly told to enjoy every moment; in reality, parenting can sometimes be challenging. That's where small wins come in...

Subscribe button May
Subscribe to Mother&Baby

Be the best mum you can be and let Mother & Baby guide you along the way. Each issue is jam packed with REAL advice from mums just like you. Subscribe today & get a free welcome gift!

Ovulation Calculator
Ovulation calculator
Trying for a baby? Work out when you're most fertile to increase your chances of getting pregnant with our easy-to-use ovulation calculator.
Pregnant woman
Due Date Calculator

When is your baby due? If you’re having trouble remembering dates and counting up the days on your fingers and toes, don’t worry – use our due date calculator.

Get M&B in your inbox!

Sign up to Mother&Baby today and get news and advice about your body and your baby straight to your inbox every week. 

Lemonade Money
It’s time to make sure your loved ones are protected

Every parent knows the importance of planning ahead; from the new school shoes, to your little one’s education, you want to fill their future with hopes and dreams. Yet are you one of the 80% of adults here in the UK that has no life cover?