Assisted Delivery

Around 1 in 8 births in the UK will be an assisted delivery and will be a little more common in women who have not had a vaginal birth before.

It is important to remember that labour is different for every mum and baby, and this means that in some cases your baby may need some additional help to be born safely.

Assisted delivery might be needed because:

  • The baby is not moving well through the birth canal despite lots of pushing
  • You are too exhausted to continue pushing
  • There are concerns about your baby and they need to be born quickly, perhaps because their heart rate changes when a contraction happens.
  • You have a medical condition where you are advised not to push

The obstetrician on the labour ward will talk to you and explain why your baby needs help to be born, and what will happen during the delivery. Your consent will be taken, and any questions you have can be answered before any procedures and interventions are performed.

There are two methods of assisted delivery: forceps and ventouse. Your obstetrician will advise you on which is the safest and best type of delivery for you and your baby. For mums who are needing an assisted vaginal birth at less than 36 weeks of pregnancy, forceps assisted delivery is the preferred method.  You will be given a local anaesthetic before these procedures to reduce any pain you are feeling. Sometimes, the doctor may undertake the assisted delivery in theatre rather than a delivery room, so that you are in the right place if the assisted delivery does not help your baby to be born within a few contractions

What happens if the assisted delivery doesn't birth your baby?

If your baby is not born within a few contractions despite this assistance, the obstetrician may feel it is safer to proceed to an emergency caesarean. The obstetrician will discuss your plan of care with you, talk through your options and explain the risks involved. They will ask for your verbal consent and, if time allows, they will ask for your written consent for a caesarean. The obstetrician will only suggest a caesarean if it is the safest way for your baby to be born.

Will assisted delivery affect my baby?

The suction cup will usually leave a mark on your baby’s head, but this usually fades quickly. In around 1-12% of cases it may also bruise your baby’s head (known as cephalohaematoma) but this should resolve in a relatively short space of time.

Forceps will generally leave marks on your baby’s head, but they usually disappear within 48 hrs. Occasionally small cuts can happen to your baby’s face or head, but these will heal quickly.


Ventouse is a suction cup that is applied to your baby’s head. The obstetrician will assist the birth of the baby by gently pulling while you also push with your contractions. In most cases this will require a few contractions to birth your baby.

More information about ventouse.


Forceps are spoon shaped instruments that are curved to fit around your baby's head and joined together at the handles. The obstetrician will gently pull the baby while you push with the contraction. This usually requires a few contractions to birth your baby.

More information about forceps


In order to deliver your baby safely, it may be necessary to perform an episiotomy. This is a cut made between the vagina and rectum to support asssited delivery or if your baby needs to be born more quickly and is close to being born.

Episiotomies are not done routinely – they will only be suggested if it is necessary, and staff will ask your consent to do so. You will be offered an injection to numb your perineum, unless you have an epidural therefore local anesthetic may not be required.

More information about episiotomy
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