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New Tool Invented to Extract Child in Complex Births

Many cases of permanent harm to children as a result of traumatic births are traced back to excessive force applied during the delivery. When a child is born vaginally, problems may arise, making it difficult for the child to naturally exit from the mother’s birthing canal. At times, doctors use outside tools to help spur the delivery, including the two most well-known: forceps and vacuum extractors. These tools can prove critical during a traumatic birth, but, when used incorrectly, these devices may cause a serious birth injury.

History of Birthing Devices
A fascinating recent article at News International explored the history of birthing devices. Forceps and similar crude objects are the oldest, having been in use for hundreds of years–invented in the 1600s. Essentially, instead of relying only on hands to pull, forceps allow for greater flexibility and force to reach inside the womb.

Vacuum extractors are far more recent. Rough versions were tested in the mid 19th century, but it was not until a hundred years later, in the 1950s, that the modern versions were developed and employed. These tools rely on the basic idea of suction to facilitate birth. They work by placing a cup or pump on the baby’s head and using a vacuum process to pull outward.

Both devices, however, are not without their problems. Because they involve invasive use of a metal objects, forceps can result in severe injury to a mother, include cuts and tears which among other things can result in anal incontinence. Vacuum extractors can lead to scalp and skull injuries for the child. The relative fragility of the child’s head make these injuries substantial and long-lasting.

The Latest: Odon Device
As discussed in the article, there is a new option in the vaginal delivery support toolkit. Known as the “Odon Device,” the new product uses a plastic bag and lubricated plastic sleeve. The sleeve is placed over the child’s head in the womb and inflated so that the sleeve grips snuggly to the baby. The bag is then pulled to help extract the child.

The device is making headlines across the globe for its relative simplicity, low-cost, and claims about its safety. For example, the World Health Organization touted the tool recently, noting that it won an award known as “Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development.” It is claimed that the tool is safer than forceps and vacuum extractions. In addition, in poorer areas where access to surgical equipment is scarce, Cesarean section deliveries may not be an option. Instead, use of the Odon Device may fill the void, providing a cheap but far more effective way to help in problematic births. it is not a stretch to suggest that thousands of lives might be saved by the product.

The WHO story on the Odon Device explained that “by reducing contacts between the baby’s head and the birth channel, the device could prevent infections acquired during delivery. The device has potential for wide application in resource poor settings even by mid-level providers.”

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