Assisted Delivery in Birth
Birth is not broken, therefore birth does not need to be fixed. Birthing bodies are not broken, therefore birthing bodies do not need to be fixed. Baby’s know how to be born, therefore interventions are a moot point. What if situations arise beyond the scope of “normal”, low-risk, or safe? What happens when decisions in birth are made to provide a safe and healthy birth of a baby? An assisted birth or delivery can be what transpires.
What Does an Assisted Delivery Mean
Also recognized as instrumental delivery, an assisted delivery is the use of instruments to assist in the arrival of a baby in a vaginal birth. Sometimes in birth, the body needs to catch up to the baby’s progression. In other instances, the baby isn’t quite ready to say ‘hello world’, while the cervix is sitting ripened, open and ready to deliver. An assisted delivery can be one way to achieve the desired vaginal birth. When the idea of an assisted delivery is presented, this is typically in moments where actions must be taken for the safety of the baby and birthing person.
What Instruments May be Used
When the options of instruments used as assistance in a vaginal birth are presented, discussing why this instrument was chosen, how the instrument will be used and any alternatives to that instrument can be helpful in understanding what the process entails. Prior to the instance that an assisted delivery is needed, such as prenatally, have a candid discussion with your provider. Learn about what their preferred method is. How prominent are assisted deliveries in the deliveries they see in their practice? This is also a great time to bring out the B.R.A.I.N acronym.
Commonly used instruments in an assisted delivery:
Vacuum. A circular device with a suction cup and a tension pulley.
Why: Baby may be showing signs of distress while in the birth canal. Baby may need assistance passing through the area of the pelvis.
How: A circular suction cup device is placed on top of the baby’s head while in the birth canal. During a contraction and push, the provider will add traction to the pull to assist the baby through the birth process.
Forceps. An enlarged set of tongs.
Why: Baby may be showing signs of distress during the birthing process. Baby may be prolonged in the birth canal.
How: The set of tongs is placed inside the cervix and on both sides of the baby’s head. During a push, the provider helps guide the baby earthside through the canal.
What are the Risks of an Assisted Delivery
The risk to an assisted delivery can be physical, emotional, and mental. Physically, the body may react to this form of intervention in birth that can cause a rise in adrenaline. This is the ‘fight or flight’ mode that we experience in certain instances. This is also the opposite of oxytocin, which is the hormone that is excreted during childbirth. There can be an impact to the perineum in the form of tearing. An episiotomy may accompany an instrumental birth. The baby can experience scarring, birth trauma, or birth related injuries.
Emotionally and mentally, working through the idea of not giving birth the way one had planned to can feel like a loss in self. Finding support in making decisions that best fulfill the needs that are presented at the moments are presented. With any form of intervention, there can be a risk to the baby as well as the gestational carrier.
What are the Benefits of an Assisted Delivery
Often when thinking about assistance while birthing, the benefits to an assisted delivery may not seem palatable. The truth is, depending on one’s birthing philosophy, birth choices, and birth plan, an assisted delivery allowed them to accomplish a vaginal delivery. For some birthing persons, avoiding a surgical delivery is their ultimate birth goal. Because exhaustion is a common cause for cesarean births, another benefit is that having assistance can be a means to an end of a long tiring, and emotional birthing experience. Maternal exhaustion is a common decision for a cesarean birth. Being presented with alternative options (such as an assisted delivery) can be a welcomed decision for that family.
Birth is birth. There are many ways that birth can be defined, experienced, wanted, and warranted. The fact is, no two birthing experiences are alike and being informed and empowered with options, rights, and information is how one can advocate for themselves in the birthing realm. How we choose to say ‘happy birthday’ to our baby is intimate to each family. Assisted delivery, for many, is a means to achieving their birth story.