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Forceps delivery

A forceps delivery is a method of assisted vaginal birth. Your obstetrician or midwife will recommend an assisted birth if they have concerns about your baby’s health during the birth.

Read more about assisted vaginal birth, when you might need one and what to expect.


Forceps are smooth metal instruments. They are curved carefully to fit around a baby’s head. They look like large tongs or spoons that fit together at the handles.

There are different types of forceps. Some help your baby turn and some are for babies who are in the right position but need some help to be born

What happens during a forceps delivery

Your obstetrician will examine you to check the position of your baby’s head. They will position the forceps around your baby’s head, and join them together at the handles.

During a contraction, you are normally asked to push. The obstetrician will gently pull on the forceps to help deliver your baby’s head. It usually takes about 3 to 4 pulls for your baby’s head to be born.

Your obstetrician will know if your baby’s head is moving further down the birth canal with each pull.

Once your baby’s head is delivered the forceps are taken off. The rest of the birth will be the same as if the forceps had not been used.

Risks of forceps delivery

Forceps are more successful at delivering babies than ventouse. But they may cause bruising or tears to your vagina and perineum.

You will probably need to have an episiotomy before a forceps delivery. This is to reduce the risk of tears to your perineum.

Read more about the risks of assisted vaginal birth, including forceps delivery.

If a forceps delivery is not successful

If the forceps are not successful, your obstetrician will usually need to do a caesarean.

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 26 January 2021
Next review due: 26 January 2024