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Assisted vaginal delivery (antenatal use)

4-minute read

What is an assisted vaginal delivery?

An assisted vaginal delivery involves using a ventouse (vacuum cup) or forceps (like large tongs) to guide your baby as you push with your contractions.

Why may I need an assisted vaginal delivery?

  • You have been pushing for too long.
  • You may have run out of energy to deliver your baby safely.
  • Your baby’s heart rate may be going above or below normal levels or they may not be getting enough oxygen.

Sometimes, if you have high blood pressure, your obstetrician may recommend an assisted vaginal delivery if the second stage of labour goes beyond a certain time and your blood pressure goes higher.

Are there any alternatives to an assisted vaginal delivery?

You can continue pushing and try to deliver your baby without a ventouse or forceps.

Another option is to have a caesarean section (procedure to deliver a baby by a surgical operation).

What does an assisted vaginal delivery involve?

If you are already having an epidural and there is enough time, you will be given more anaesthetic through the epidural. Otherwise, local anaesthetic may be injected either into the skin at the opening of your vagina or through your vagina.

Your legs will be put in ‘stirrups’.

Forceps delivery

Your obstetrician will place metal forceps either side of your baby’s head. When the forceps are in position, your obstetrician will hold them together.

They will pull gently as you push with your contractions to guide your baby’s head out. This can take several pulls and usually involves an episiotomy (a cut on the skin between your vagina and back passage) to help reduce the risk of you getting a severe tear.

Illustration showing a forceps delivery.
A forceps delivery.

Ventouse delivery

Your obstetrician will place the ventouse cup onto your baby’s head.

Your obstetrician will guide your baby out, as you push with your contractions. This can take several pulls and you may need an episiotomy.

Once your baby’s head is delivered, your obstetrician will remove the forceps or ventouse from your baby’s head and your baby will be delivered onto your abdomen.

What complications can happen?

  • pain
  • bleeding
  • tears
  • damage to your back passage
  • healing problems
  • difficulty passing urine
  • infection
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication
  • marks and bruises on your baby
  • shoulder dystocia, where your baby's shoulders get stuck for a short while on the way out
  • your baby having jaundice (the eyes and skin turning yellow)
  • failure to deliver your baby vaginally
  • venous thromboembolism

How soon will I recover?

You will be able to go home when you can walk around without any help and are able to care for your baby.

The healthcare team will tell you when you can return to normal activities.

Regular exercise should improve your long-term health. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

You should make a full recovery. An assisted vaginal delivery should not affect your ability to become pregnant or deliver a baby in the future.


An assisted vaginal delivery is a common procedure and is usually a safe method of delivery for you and your baby.


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Last reviewed: September 2023

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