Vacuum Extraction: All You Need To Know

Delivery sometimes brings with it some unexpected surprises. Even when everything is done by the book, including regular antenatal clinics and exercise, stuff may just go off the plan during delivery. At this point, a vacuum extraction is a safe and reliable alternative.

As you’d find out later in this post, a vacuum extraction is a type of assisted delivery.

This article provides you with all you need to know about vacuum extraction delivery; what it is, why it is needed, and the potential risks involved.

Keep reading to learn more!

What’s A Vacuum Extraction?

A vacuum extraction is simply a vacuum-assisted delivery.

It is performed during a stalled vaginal delivery. In plain terms, a stalled delivery occurs when the mother can no longer push effectively or when the baby has not moved further down for a few hours.

Vacuum Extraction

This procedure happens in the pushing stage of labor, when the baby’s head is already in the birth canal, waiting to be delivered.

When Is It Needed?

Vacuum extraction may become an option if the labor meets any of the following criteria:

  • Prolonged duration
  • High risk of complications.
  • If following a normal cervical dilatation, the membranes have ruptured and the baby has descended into the birth canal with the head first, but the mother is unable to push her baby out.
  • If your baby is at risk of developing complications e.g. fetal distress or when there’s a change in your baby’s heartbeat.
  • Underlying medical conditions that may be a contraindication for you to push for too long, e.g. high blood pressure, aortic valve stenosis.

When Is A Vacuum Extraction Unadvisable?

In some situations, doctors would NOT go along with vacuum extraction. These include:

  • Breech presentation i.e. the baby’s shoulders, arms, buttocks, or feet are leading the way of the birth canal instead of the head.
  • The pregnancy is less than 34 weeks old.
  • The baby has a health condition that affects the strength of his or her bones.
  • The baby’s head is not yet at the center of the birth canal.
  • If the size of the baby bigger than the pelvis or the size of the pelvis is smaller than your baby.

Vacuum Extraction Procedure

Before a vacuum extraction becomes an option, your physician would have tried other ways to help your labor progress. Some of these ways include adjusting your anesthesia to encourage a more effective pushing or stimulating stronger contractions by an intravenous administration of Oxytocin.

Furthermore, another option is to conduct an episiotomy. This procedure involves making an incision in the tissue between your vagina and your anus. This helps to increase the size of your vagina to aid delivery.

After pursuing all the symptoms above, and a vacuum extraction is still the most effective option available, your doctor would explain the process and ask for your consent.

What Happens Next?

The first step is to administer an epidural if you’ve not had one beforehand. This is really good because it would help numb or block any form of pain during the procedure. Next, you’d have to lie on your back and spread your legs while holding on to the bed handles for support.

When the process starts, your attending physician will insert the vacuum cup into your vagina and place the cup against your baby’s head. At your next contraction, your physician will increase the vacuum suction pressure rapidly and grasp the cup’s handle. This would carefully guide your baby through the birth canal as you push.


Once your child’s head has been delivered, your doctor would release the suction and remove the cup.

However, it is important to note that vacuum extraction is not failsafe. If it doesn’t work out, you may still need to go in for a Cesarean section.

What Happens After A Vacuum Extraction?

After a vacuum extraction process, your physician will check you and your baby to see if any injury has been caused by the vacuum.

Tears, if any will be repaired, and if there was an episiotomy performed, it too will be repaired. Your baby will be monitored also, for signs of complications as a result of the vacuum extraction.

Tears or episiotomies take time to heal. So, you may experience pain for a few days or weeks after delivery.

Risks Associated with Vacuum Extraction

The process of vacuum extraction exposes you and your baby to varying degrees of risk. These include:

  • Perineal pain due to tears or episiotomies
  • Tears in the lower genital tract
  • Difficulty in urinating which is usually short term
  • Fecal or urinary incontinence (that is involuntary defecation or urination) which can be short term or long term.

Potential risk to your baby includes:

  • Wounds and swellings on the scalp caused as a result of the extractor placed on it. This usually resolves within few days.
  • Fracture of the skull.
  • Bleeding within the skull.
  • Shoulder dystocia (a condition where your baby’s shoulder is stuck in the birth canal after the head has been delivered).
  • Jaundice or yellowish coloration of the skin. Treatment with light therapy is indicated.


Finally, it is important to note that even in an unassisted delivery, you may also be exposed to some of these risks. For now, all you need to do is follow the rules, stay healthy, and provide your growing bundle of joy with all the love and care you can offer.

You are not alone, Mama.


Lakshmidevi V. Putta, and Jeanne P. Spencer (2000). Assisted Vaginal Delivery Using the Vacuum Extractor. American Family Physician. Sep 15;62(6):1316-1320. Accessed on 21st December. 2021 from

Tonismae T, Canela CD, and Gossman W. (2021). Vacuum Extraction. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing. Accessed on 21st December, 2021 from