What is the safest method of assisted delivery? C-section, vacuum (suction), and forceps all have positives and negatives. However, some methods have a lower risk factor than others. So which is best, C-section, forceps, or something else? More importantly, which is safer for your baby?


About 1-in-5 babies in the US come into the world through C-section. When faced with a difficult birth, most US doctors opt for C-Section over other delivery methods. However, that doesn’t mean C-Section is safer, only that doctors feel more comfortable performing the procedure.

C-Sections are extremely common now, but the procedure poses significant risks, even to a skilled surgeon. The procedure always puts babies at risk of lacerations and potential brain damage. Additional complications, such as a delayed C-section, increase the risk of birth hypoxia or even neonatal asphyxiation. Parents should be informed of these risks before they make a decision that could have long-term consequences.

Mothers are also at risk in a C-section. Negligent surgical methods could lead to uterine ruptures or bladder lacerations. Likewise, the procedure exposes the mother to risks of infection and hemorrhaging.

Vacuum-Assisted Delivery

Vacuum-assisted delivery, also known as suction delivery, is rare in the United States. Less than half of one percent of American babies (0.05%) are delivered with suction. Vacuum-assisted delivery has a bad reputation, but is it deserved?

Suction delivery should only be used when the pregnancy meets six specific criteria. When those circumstances are met, studies suggest vacuum-assisted delivery may be safer than C-Section.

The six criteria for successful vacuum-assisted delivery are:

1. Pregnancy is late-term (34 weeks)

2. Mother’s water broke

3. Cervix is fully dilated

4. Baby’s head is in the birth canal

5. Baby is not facing up

6. Baby is small enough to fit through the birth canal

If a suction delivery is performed when those criteria are not met, it could mean serious injury for both mother and child. Improper suction significantly raises the risk of a birth injury resulting in skull deformities, brain damage, and cerebral palsy. Similarly, the mother may experience lasting incontinence, tearing, or hemorrhaging.


Forceps have been around for more than 500 years, yet they’ve fallen into obscurity in the past few decades. Experienced doctors rarely use forceps in the delivery room, and new medical students aren’t learning how to use them.

This change has resulted in a significantly higher risk of forceps-related birth injury. As the use of forceps decreases, the rate of forceps-related injuries increases. For that reason, current rates suggest every 1% increase in forceps use will result in 900 more birth injuries per year.

Using forceps isn’t just a matter of technique; it’s also a responsibility in choosing the right tool. There are many different kinds of forceps, each designed to combat a specific birth complication. If new doctors aren’t trained to know the difference between their tools, they dramatically increase the risk of harming the mother and child.

Forceps pose a significant risk to the baby as they’re more likely to result in long-term brain damage. Improper technique or applying too much pressure could cause skull fractures, a brain injury, or even lifelong cerebral palsy.

The Safest Choice

The best method for assisted delivery greatly depends on the circumstances. C-section is essentially mandatory if the baby won’t fit through the birth canal. Suction is considered safe when labor has come to a halt, but the baby is already in the birth canal. Even forceps have their place in the case of breech birth.

While decisions will largely fall upon the doctor’s comfort and expertise, it’s crucial parents understand the risks associated with each method. The more informed parents are, the more likely they are to identify injuries and cases of medical malpractice.

If your child was diagnosed with a birth injury, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Atlanta medical malpractice attorney from The Mabrey Firm, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (404) 841-4991 or send us an email.

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