Sometimes a baby needs extra help to be born with the use of medical instruments. This would be performed by a doctor in the labour room, or sometimes in the operating theatre. The doctor would recommend either forceps or a suction cup called a ventouse.

Instruments explained

Forceps are curved metal “spoons” that fit tightly around your baby’s head and will be inserted so that the doctor can gently pull the baby out while you push with a contraction. 

The ventouse is a vacuum cup generally made of plastic with a small pump attached. The cup suctions on to the baby’s head and the doctor will pull on the suction cup as you push with a contraction to help you to give birth. 

Use of instruments is usually less common depending on where you give birth, and also if you have had a vaginal birth before. Instrumental birth might happen for different reasons, but the most common reasons include:

  • Worries about your baby’s heart rate after you are fully dilated which show the baby may not be coping with labour
  • Concerns about the length of time the second stage of labour is lasting which can affect your wellbeing
  • Your baby is nearly there but not getting closer to being born with contractions.

It may also be advised for you to have an episiotomy. This is a cut to the muscles in the vaginal area to allow the baby to be born sooner or more easily. An episiotomy during an instrumental birth also protects you from more harm to the muscles around your vagina and bottom during the procedure. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the area before the episiotomy. As soon as your baby is born and it is safe to do so, the cut will be repaired with stitches. The best way for you to care for the episiotomy will also be explained. 


No procedure can go ahead without your consent. In an emergency where your baby is not coping with labour, this will be communicated clearly. If your baby is not in immediate danger, you will be able to have a full discussion about the risks, benefits and options. 

Having an instrumental birth doesn’t usually mean you will need to stay in hospital any longer than if you did not need instruments to help you deliver your baby. Many women and babies can go home the same day even if instruments were needed to help deliver the baby.

This video from East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust explains what support is offered to help you give birth to your baby, and ensure it is as positive an experience as possible.

Download this leaflet from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which explains what is involved in an assisted birth.