What you can expect

By Mayo Clinic Staff

During the procedure

During a vacuum extraction, you'll lie on your back with your legs spread apart. You might be asked to grip handles on each side of the delivery table to brace yourself while pushing.

Your health care provider will insert the vacuum cup into your vagina, place the cup against the baby's head and check to make sure no vaginal tissues are trapped between the cup and the baby's head. Then your health care provider will use the vacuum pump to create suction.

During the next contraction, your health care provider will rapidly increase the vacuum suction pressure, grasp the cup's handle and try to guide the baby through the birth canal while you push. Between contractions, your health care provider might maintain or reduce the suction pressure.

After your baby's head is delivered, your health care provider will release the suction and remove the cup.

Vacuum extractions aren't always successful. If your health care provider isn't able to achieve suction, he or she might use forceps — an instrument shaped like a pair of large spoons or salad tongs — to help guide the baby out of the birth canal, or opt for a C-section.

If your health care provider achieves suction with the vacuum and the cup accidentally detaches two to three times, or the baby doesn't move when the vacuum is used, a C-section is likely the best option.

After the procedure

After delivery, your health care provider will examine you for any injuries that might have been caused by the vacuum. Any tears or incisions will be repaired.

Your baby will also be monitored for signs of complications that can be caused by a vacuum extraction.

When you go home

If you had an episiotomy or vaginal tear during delivery, the wound might hurt for a few weeks. Extensive tears might take longer to heal.

In the meantime, you can help promote healing:

  • Soothe the wound. Apply an ice pack to the affected area, or place a chilled witch hazel pad between a sanitary napkin and the wound. You can find witch hazel pads in most pharmacies.
  • Take the sting out of urination. Use a plastic cup to pour warm water over your vulva as you're urinating, and rinse yourself with a squirt bottle afterward.
  • Prevent pain and stretching during bowel movements. Press a clean pad firmly against the wound when you bear down for a bowel movement.
  • Sit down carefully. Tighten your buttocks as you lower yourself to a seated position. Sit on a pillow or padded ring rather than a hard surface.
  • Consider complementary treatments. Some research suggests that lavender might help relieve pain after a tear or episiotomy. If your health care provider approves, add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your bath water or apply the oil directly to the affected area.

While you're healing, expect the discomfort to progressively improve. Contact your health care provider if the pain gets worse, you develop a fever or you notice a pus-like discharge.

Pregnancy and birth stretch the connective tissue at the base of the bladder and can cause nerve and muscle damage to the bladder or urethra. You might leak urine when you cough, strain or laugh. Fortunately, this problem usually improves within three months. In the meantime, wear sanitary pads and do Kegel exercises to help tone your pelvic floor muscles.

To do Kegels, tighten your pelvic muscles as if you're stopping your stream of urine. Try it for five seconds at a time, four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

If fear of pain leaves you avoiding bowel movements, take steps to keep your stools soft and regular. Eat foods high in fiber — including fruits, vegetables and whole grains — and drink plenty of water. It's also helpful to remain as physically active as possible. Ask your health care provider about a stool softener or fiber laxative, if needed.

If you're unable to control your bowel movements (fecal incontinence), frequent Kegel exercises might help. If you have persistent trouble controlling bowel movements, consult your health care provider.

Jul. 18, 2012