Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Forceps are a hand-held instrument for grasping and holding objects, similar in concept to tongs, tweezers or pincers. They have a locking mechanism to ensure they do not squeeze too tightly onto the object they are used upon.
They are sometimes used in surgery or medical procedures, especially during labour in pregnancy where they are common for assisting childbirth.
Forceps in childbirth
The cervix must be fully dilated and the bladder emptied, perhaps with the use of a catheter. The woman is placed in the lithotomy position and a mild anaesthetic is administered (unless an epidural has been given). The two sections of the forceps are individually inserted and then locked into position around the baby's head. An episiotomy is performed and then the baby is removed.
Possible indicating factors
- The baby remains in the breech or other unfavourable position
- Fetal or maternal distress (though depending on the severity this may require an emergency caesarean)
- When (further) pushing is contra-indicated
- Arterial hypertension (high blood pressure)
Comparisons to other forms of assisted delivery
- Can be performed even if the baby is not in the correct position
- An episiotomy is usually required which itself involves anesthesia
- The internal tissues, particularly the pelvic floor muscles, are bruised
- Women with a previous history of sexual abuse have reported feeling as though they were raped after instrumental deliveries
- An anal fissure can result, where fecal material leaks from the bowel into the vagina
- Facial bruising or temporary marks on the baby
- Nerve damage to the baby
- Skull fractures
- Cervical cord injury to the baby that results in the baby being unable to breathe unassisted
Modern obstetrical forceps were invented by Peter Chamberlen around 1600 and kept a family secret for several generations. About 1730 the secret leaked out and a public design of the instrument became available.
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