Forceps, Vacuum, and Tears – Oh My!

What Moms Should Know About Childbirth

It’s common knowledge that your pelvic floor muscles play a big role in pregnancy and childbirth. The pelvic floor acts as a hammock and supports the pelvic organs, during pregnancy and with the growing baby.

The good news is there is a lot of prep work you can do in your pregnancy to better prepare your body for pregnancy. Pelvic floor exercises being at the very top of the list as a stronger pelvic floor can help a mother more effectively “push” the baby through the birth canal. Consider training your pelvic floor for childbirth as training your body for a marathon.

Using PeriCoach during pregnancy is the most effective way of performing pelvic floor exercises.

PeriCoach kegel exerciser is safe to use during normal, healthy pregnancy and a strong pelvic floor can help to prevent complications during childbirth. Before we discuss birth interventions, it’s important to understand the vaginal childbirth.


There are 3 stages of childbirth

  1. The first stage begins at the onset of labor (contractions are at regular intervals) and the cervix dilates to 10 cm.
  2. The second stage of labor when a woman begins the process of pushing as the cervix is at the optimal size to allow the baby to come out.
  3. The final stage is after the delivery of the child and the placenta (also called the after birth).

Childbirth can throw some curve balls and you may experience (or have experienced) some complications. The good news is that everyone in the delivery room shares the goal of having a healthy mama and baby at the end of the marathon.

pregnant mother holding her stomach

Common Interventions For Delivery

In order to have an optimal recovery, it’s important to understand what your healthcare provider may recommend in order to deliver the baby safely.

What Are Forceps?

Forceps are a large metal instrument (like a salad tong) that help guide the baby through the birth canal. Forceps are typically used in the case that second stage labor is not progressing and/or the baby’s heartbeat has dropped. Risk factors include post-partum pelvic pain, incontinence, and prolapse.  While these pelvic floor disorders are considered risk factors for childbirth in general, they are more likely to coincide with a history of forceps-assisted delivery. One study found that the odds of women requiring surgical intervention for stress urinary incontinence is 20-times higher for those who had forceps-assisted delivery compared with women who gave birth exclusively via cesarean.

The use of forceps has greatly been reduced over the years and it’s important to keep an open line of communication with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about the use of forceps when discussing your birth plan.

What Does Vacuum-Extraction Mean?

This technique is used in the same scenario as forceps-assisted delivery, it is also known as vacuum-assisted delivery. The healthcare provider places a cup-like device and a vacuum pump to help guide the child out of the birth canal. Risks of pelvic floor complication are slightly less than forceps but a mother could experience perineal tears which may lead to incontinence, pelvic pain, and difficulty urinating.

Will an Episiotomy Help or Hinder?

Today an episiotomy is no longer a routine practice during a vaginal delivery.  The procedure is an incision in the area between the vagina and anus, which is also called the perineum.  This practice can help to deliver the baby more easily particularly if the mother has been in active labor (pushing) for a long period of time.  After delivery, the physician or midwife will then stitch up the wound.

At one time, episiotomies were standard practice in delivery rooms as it was thought to help prevent tearing and as well as deliver infants faster.  However, healthcare providers have learned that sometimes episiotomies can cause more damage than a natural tear which can lead to pelvic floor disorders such as pelvic pain and incontinence.

If you’re concerned about having an episiotomy during delivery, it’s important to make this known to your doctor or midwife early.  Together, you can communicate throughout the delivery process and they will let you know if it is absolutely necessary.

parents holding their newborn baby

What Happens If I Tear?

It is quite common to tear during labor, particularly in first deliveries.  However, there are steps you can take to help prevent it.

  1. Perineal Massage. Performed solo or with a partner this helps to massage the tissue around the vagina, making it more elastic.  Studies have shown that perineal massage practiced in the last 6 weeks of pregnancy can help prevent tearing.
  2. Birthing position. It’s no longer standard practice to give birth on your back. Many women have found they are comfortable in a variety of positions.  This may include squatting on a birthing stool, lying on their side, or even giving birth in water can be more conducive to pushing.
  3. Childbirth is a long and arduous process with different levels of how hard you should push. Keep an open line of communication with your birthing team so they’ll know what level you’re at.

Concerned? Talk to Your Healthcare Provider Now

If you have experienced any of the above, do not fret!  Birth injuries can heal and will take around 4-6 weeks. If you are still struggling with symptoms such as pain or incontinence, talk to your healthcare provider.  They may refer you to a pelvic floor physical therapist, who will be able to assess any damage and teach you exercises to improve your symptoms.

Pregnant? Start Training Your Pelvic Floor Today with PeriCoach.

If you’re pregnant and want to start training your pelvic floor, start our  8-week challenge program. Just 5 minutes a day and to both strengthen your pelvic floor and prepare you for optimal delivery and recovery.