What you can expect
During the procedure
During a forceps delivery, you'll lie on your back, slightly inclined, with your legs spread apart. You might be asked to grip handles on each side of the delivery table to brace yourself while pushing.
Between contractions, your health care provider will place two or more fingers inside your vagina and beside your baby's head. He or she will then gently slide one portion of the forceps between his or her hand and the baby's head, followed by placement of the other portion of the forceps on the other side of your baby's head. The forceps will be locked together to cradle your baby's head.
During the next few contractions, you'll push and your health care provider will use the forceps to gently guide your baby through the birth canal.
If your baby's head is facing up, your health care provider might use the forceps to rotate your baby's head between contractions.
If delivery of the baby is certain, your health care provider will unlock and remove the forceps before the widest part of your baby's head passes through the birth canal. Alternatively, your health care provider might keep the forceps in place to control the advance of your baby's head.
Forceps deliveries aren't always successful. If delivery with assistance of forceps is not successful, your health care provider might recommend a C-section for delivery. He or she might also recommend using a cup attached to a vacuum pump to deliver your baby (vacuum extraction) as an alternative. Your health care provider will assess your delivery situation and make a decision about which option — forceps or vacuum extraction — is the right choice for you.
If your health care provider applies the forceps but isn't able to move your baby, a C-section is likely the best option.
After the procedure
After delivery, your health care provider will examine you for any tears that might have been caused by the forceps. Any tears will be repaired. Your baby will also be monitored for any signs of complications.
When you go home
If you had an episiotomy or a vaginal tear during delivery, the wound might hurt for a few weeks. Extensive tears might take longer to heal.
While you're healing, expect the discomfort to progressively improve. Contact your health care provider if the pain gets worse, you develop a fever or you notice signs of an infection.
If you're unable to control your bowel movements (fecal incontinence), consult your health care provider.