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Forceps and Birth Injuries

Forceps are medical instruments used during childbirth to assist in the delivery of a baby. While forceps can be a helpful tool in certain situations, they also carry risks, and improper use can lead to birth injuries. In fact, while forceps are only used in 1% of vaginal births, they account for about 30% of birth injuries, including skull fractures, seizures, bleeding in the skull, facial palsy, and brain damage.  In Florida, as in other jurisdictions, if a healthcare provider’s use of forceps results in harm to the baby or mother, it may be considered medical malpractice.

Use of Forceps and Associated Risks

Forceps are typically used when there is a need to expedite delivery for the health of the baby or mother. Indications for use may include prolonged labor, fetal distress, or the need to avoid a cesarean section.

There are a number of risks associated with the use of forceps. Potential complications include: 

  • Injury to the baby’s head or face: This can result in bruising, swelling, or more severe injuries.
  • Brain injuries: oxygen deprivation or trauma during forceps delivery may result in brain injuries.
  • Injury to facial nerves:  The pressure from forceps can sometimes cause damage to facial nerves, leading to temporary or permanent facial paralysis.
  • Skull fractures: Excessive force or improper application of forceps can lead to fractures of the baby’s skull.
  • Cerebral palsy: In severe cases, improper forceps use might contribute to conditions like cerebral palsy. 
  • Injury to the mother: The mother may also experience tears, lacerations, or other injuries as a result of forceps use.

Proper training and skill are crucial for medical professionals using forceps. Improper application, excessive force, or incorrect positioning can increase the risk of injury to both the baby and the mother.

Before using forceps, healthcare providers are typically required to obtain informed consent from the mother. This involves explaining the reasons for using forceps, potential risks, and any available alternatives.

Was There Medical Malpractice Related to Forceps?

If the use of forceps leads to birth injuries due to negligence or a deviation from the standard of care, it may be considered medical malpractice. Common factors in a medical malpractice claim related to forceps use include:

  • Failure to properly assess the need for forceps.
  • Inadequate training or skill in using forceps.
  • Failure to obtain informed consent.
  • Incorrect use, leading to avoidable injuries.

Healthcare providers are expected to adhere to a certain standard of care when using forceps during childbirth. Deviating from this standard, such as using excessive force or employing forceps inappropriately, may be considered negligence. Medical malpractice cases require expert testimony to establish the standard of care and whether it was breached. Experts may be called upon to explain whether the use of forceps in a particular case was appropriate.

Establishing a Medical Malpractice Claim

To establish a medical malpractice claim in Florida related to forceps and birth injuries, you generally need to demonstrate:

  • The healthcare provider owed a duty of care.
  • The provider breached that duty by deviating from the standard of care.
  • The breach of duty was the proximate cause of the injury.
  • Damages resulted from the injury.

As Florida has a statute of limitations for filing medical malpractice claims, it’s important to be aware of these time constraints and take timely action if you believe there was negligence in the use of forceps during childbirth. In Florida, the statute of limitations for medical malpractice is typically two years. While that time frame can be extended in some circumstances, it is important to act quickly. 

In Florida, a jury will be selected to hear your medical malpractice case if the parties do not settle before the trial date. The jury must reach a unanimous decision under Florida law. If damages are awarded, they will be based on the extent of injuries. Up until 2017, there were caps on the amount of damages that could be awarded in Florida. However, caps were ruled unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court. 

Contact HPS Legal

If you suspect that the improper use of forceps during childbirth led to a birth injury, consult with a Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm Fort Lauderdale medical malpractice attorney or Orlando medical malpractice lawyer to review the specifics of your case, help you understand your rights, and guide you through the legal process. Birth injury cases can be complex, and seeking legal advice early is essential to preserving your rights. Our firm has handled hundreds of birth injury cases and can help you determine if you have a valid claim. For a free and confidential legal consultation, contact us online or call us at 1-800-693-4465.