Skip to main content

Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

Risks of an assisted vaginal birth (forceps or ventouse)

Ventouse and forceps delivery are safe ways to give birth. But there are some risks associated with having an assisted birth. Some of these risks apply to you, others to your baby.

Your obstetrician will discuss these risks with you, but never be afraid to ask questions.

Risks to the mother

Risks to the mother include vaginal tear or episiotomy. These are usually repaired with dissolvable stitches.

Third or fourth-degree tear

You may have a third or fourth-degree tear. These types of vaginal tear involve the muscles of the rectum or anus (back passage).

The risks of having a third or fourth-degree tear are:

  • 1 in 100 women who have a normal vaginal birth
  • 4 in 100 women who have a ventouse birth
  • 8 to 12 in 100 women who have a forceps birth

Blood clots

Your risk of getting a blood clot is slightly higher after an assisted birth. You can reduce this risk by moving around as much as you can after the birth. You may have to wear special stockings. Some women get an injection of a blood thinner like 'low molecular weight heparin' to prevent a clot.


Leaking of urine (pee), wind or poo can happen, especially if you have a third or fourth-degree tear.

If you notice this, talk to your midwife, GP or obstetrician. They can refer you to a physiotherapist who specialises in women’s health.

Most women who have an assisted birth have no symptoms like this after recovering from the birth.

Risks to your baby


The suction cup can sometimes cause a bruise on your baby’s head. This is called a cephalohematoma. It disappears with time.

Some babies with cephalohematomas are more jaundiced than usual in the first day or two after the birth. Otherwise, they do not cause any problems.


Forceps can sometimes cause two red marks on your baby’s face. These should disappear within 48 hours.

Small cuts on a baby’s face or scalp can be more common after an assisted birth. These heal quickly and should not cause any problems for your baby.

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

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.