Assisted deliveries: Getting help when you need it
Imagine being in labour and your contractions come to a grinding halt. Or being minutes away from giving birth and baby suddenly decides he doesn’t want to make the last little bit of the journey on his own. There are certain situations during labour and delivery where you might need an extra helping hand to get to the finish line!
With an assisted delivery, your doctor or midwife provides medical assistance to help your baby to be born safely. Some of the most common methods include:
If labour has started naturally but is not progressing, an oxytocin drip may be recommended. This artificial hormone will help to speed up or restart your labour. Complications from oxytocin are rare, but may include:
- Low blood pressure
- Increased risk of uterine tearing
- Abnormal contractions
Oxytocin is also used to induce labour and produce strong regular contractions. Once you have an oxytocin drip inserted, the drip will stay in place until you have delivered, Continuous fetal monitoring usually happens with an oxytocin drip as some babies can become distressed as a result of the drip.
Breaking your waters
If your labour isn't progressing as it should be and strong, regular contractions just aren't happening, your doctor or midwife may decide to break your waters by rupturing the membranes surrounding your baby, if they haven't ruptured naturally already. This is done by inserting a small hook into your vagina to pierce the sac. You will usually feel a warm trickle of liquid as the amniotic fluid escapes. In many cases, this is procedure is enough to get labour back into full swing.
The major risk with this prodecure is that if labour does not resume, you will need to try something else within 24-48 hours, as once the membranes have been ruptured, there is a greater risk of infection for you and your baby, so the sooner baby is born the better.
The skin between the vagina and anus needs to be able to stretch a lot during a vaginal delivery. In some cases it does not stretch enough for baby’s head to fit through. Cutting the skin, otherwise known as an episiotomy, is often seen as a more preferable option than allowing it to tear. The cut is stitched up soon after birth and is generally quick and uncomplicated.
The downside of an episiotomy is the fact that you will be somewhat uncomfortable for a few days and may need some pain relief. Usually the stitches dissolve within 1-2 weeks.
Forceps are specially designed metal instruments, similar to a pair of salad servers, which help to assist a baby out of the birth canal. The instruments are placed on either side of baby’s head and help to manoeuvre baby out using a gentle pulling motion.
Risks of a forceps delivery include:
- Increased chance of needing an episiotomy
- Possibility that forceps will leave some small red marks or bruises on baby’s head, which will heal after a few days.
Otherwise known as a vacuum extractor, a ventouse is used to pull a baby out of the birth canal by attaching a suction cup to the top of baby’s head.
Often a baby born by this method will have a slightly swollen or misshapen head. This will probably only last a couple of days before returning to normal.
- This article was written by Jo Harris for Kidspot, New Zealand's best pregnancy, labour and birth resource. Sources include Child & Youth Health and KidsHealth.
This information is recommended as a guide only, and was correct at the time of going to print.
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