Operative vaginal delivery is delivery using a vacuum extractor or forceps.
A vacuum extractor consists of a small cup made of a rubberlike material that is connected to a vacuum. It is inserted into the vagina and uses suction to attach to the fetus's head. If vacuum extraction delivery is tried and is unsuccessful, cesarean delivery is done. Rarely, a vacuum extractor bruises the baby's scalp or causes bleeding in the baby's eyes (retinal hemorrhage). The risk of shoulder dystocia and jaundice is also increased.
Forceps are metal surgical instruments with rounded edges that fit around the fetus's head. Rarely, using forceps bruises the baby or tears the area between the opening of the woman's vagina and anus (called the perineum).
Vacuum extraction or forceps delivery may be required in the following situations:
Last full review/revision June 2013 by Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD