A vacuum extraction is a procedure sometimes done during the course of vaginal childbirth.
During vacuum extraction, a health care provider applies the vacuum — a soft or rigid cup with a handle and a vacuum pump — to the baby's head to help guide the baby out of the birth canal. This is typically done during a contraction while the mother pushes.
Your health care provider might recommend vacuum extraction during the second stage of labor — when you're pushing — if labor isn't progressing or if the baby's health depends on an immediate delivery.
Why it's done
A vacuum extraction might be considered if your labor meets certain criteria — your cervix is fully dilated, your membranes have ruptured and your baby has descended into the birth canal headfirst, but you're not able to push the baby out. A vacuum extraction is only appropriate in a birthing center or hospital where a C-section can be done, if needed.
Your health care provider might recommend vacuum extraction if:
You're pushing, but labor isn't progressing. If you've never given birth before, labor is considered stalled if you've pushed for a period of two to three hours but haven't made any progress. If you've given birth before, labor might be considered stalled if you've pushed for a period of one to two hours without any progress.
Your baby's heartbeat suggests a problem. If your health care provider is concerned about changes in your baby's heartbeat and an immediate delivery is necessary, he or she might recommend vacuum extraction.
You have a health concern. If you have certain medical conditions — such as narrowing of the heart's aortic valve (aortic valve stenosis) — your health care provider might limit the amount of time you push.
Keep in mind that whenever vacuum extraction is recommended, a C-section is typically also an option.