What the heck is Vacuum Extraction?


Vacuum extraction is an intervention that can be done in order to assist you in giving birth.  The “vacuum” consists of a plastic suction cup, about 3 inches in diameter, that connects to a handle with a pump. The pump creates a safe amount of suction so that when you are having a contraction and pushing, your caregiver will lightly pull. If the care provider pulls too hard, the suction cup disengages. When your baby’s head is out, your care provider will remove the suction cup.

There are a few reasons this procedure may be done:

  • You are exhausted at this point of labor, and may be having a difficult time bearing down strong enough.
  • You may have opted to have anesthesia which makes pushing difficult.
  • There is a decrease in contractions.
  • Your baby’s head may be angled a little funny in the pelvis so there is extra resistance.
  • Your baby may be experiencing fetal distress.

Many people are concerned with the safety of a vacuum assisted delivery:

  • The suction cup can cause a bruise, or fluid filled bump.
  • Although injury to the baby’s head can occur, if the care provider is using the vacuum properly, following the guidelines set by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), injury is unlikely.
  • If the suction cup disengages it can cause a popping sound which can cause anxiety.
  • Can cause perineal tearing

If you are uncomfortable with a vacuum delivery you can try:

  • To change positions for bearing down
  • A forceps delivery
  • A c-section


This intervention is done to try and help you in delivering your baby. However in some cases, if labor isn’t progressing and a vacuum assist did not work, and a forceps delivery did not work, a C section may be the safest option if there are signs of distress.

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