A ventouse is a suction device that can be used instead of forceps to assist in the delivery of a baby during labour.
The equipment consists of a small rubber cup about 8 cm. in diameter to which is attached a tube and a chain.
The tube leads to a suction device, which can create a vacuum, and the chain is attached to a handle that is held by the doctor.
The rubber suction cap is placed on the baby’s head as it emerges from the dilated cervix of the mother, and the vacuum pump is turned on to firmly attach the cup to the baby’s scalp. The doctor can then pull on the chain and therefore the baby to assist the mother who is pushing the baby out. The vacuum pressure is adjusted so that if the doctor pulls too hard on the chain the suction cap detaches from the baby’s head.
Because there is no increase in the diameter of the cervix the use of a ventouse is more comfortable for the mother (not that the labour itself is comfortable!) than using forceps, which further stretch the cervix, and because no artificial twisting forces are applied to the baby’s head it is safer for the baby. Forceps are still essential if the baby’s head is not in the correct position or rapid delivery is essential.
Most babies who have a ventouse applied develop a lump on their scalp from the vacuum suction. This settles over the next week or two and has no lasting effect.