Skip to main content

Barwon Health / Maternity Services

(03) 4215 2060

Assisted births

Sometimes it may be necessary to assist the birth of a baby with the use of forceps or vacuum extraction. These are used only after the cervix has fully dilated.

The most common reasons are:

  • baby is not coping with labour (baby’s heart rate pattern is not normal)
  • a long second stage which may be the result of:
    • mother’s condition (e.g. exhaustion)
    • baby’s position
    • an epidural that has slowed progress
    • mother’s medical condition

Before an assisted birth you have a catheter inserted into your bladder to drain urine. You may also need a local anaesthetic to numb the vagina and perineum. A paediatrician is always called to attend an assisted birth.

Forceps birth

Forceps are used to help the baby out of the vagina. They may be used if you are too exhausted to push, the baby is in an awkward position or there are concerns for your baby’s wellbeing. Sometimes the forceps leave a mark on the baby’s cheeks, but these soon fade. You will usually need an episiotomy.

Vacuum (ventouse) birth

This is more commonly used in labour than forceps. The vacuum cup is made of plastic and is attached to a suction device. The cup is inserted into the vagina and creates a vacuum against the baby’s head. This helps the doctor to gently pull the baby out. It may cause a raised bruise on the baby’s head, but this soon fades, usually within a day. You may need an episiotomy.


An episiotomy is a cut made in the perineum (the tissue between the vagina and the anus). Sometimes it is necessary to make the opening to the vagina bigger, especially if you need a forceps birth or if the baby is distressed. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the area and you will need stitches afterwards. The stitches will dissolve by themselves and you will be offered ice packs to reduce swelling and pain.


Last Modified: Thursday, 25 July 2019