Despite the scary look of forceps and vacuum extractors, these instruments -- which are used to assist vaginal deliveries about 10-15 percent of the time -- pose no greater risk to your health or your baby's well-being than a cesarean delivery. Some births go much more smoothly because these instruments help things along. Talk to your provider about circumstances where she might use these instruments, and have her explain them in detail now so that you won't feel nervous if she needs one of these tools during your delivery.
Reasons for use. Typically, forceps or vacuum extraction is used if there is a prolonged second stage of labor -- perhaps 2-3 hours of pushing with little progress due to maternal exhaustion. These tools might also be required if the baby is about to come out but her heart rate drops and she needs to make a quick exit. Neither instrument is used unless your cervix is fully dilated with the baby's head positioned no more than 2 inches above your vaginal opening.