Obstetric Forceps: A Species on the Brink of Extinction

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Abstract

Both resident training in the use of obstetric forceps and forceps deliveries are experiencing precipitous declines in the United States. Current minimum training requirements are insufficient to ensure competency in this skill. These trends bear striking similarities to observations regarding the decline and ultimate extinction of biologic species and portend the inevitable disappearance of this valuable skill from the obstetric armamentarium. Attempts by experienced teaching faculty to provide residents with experience in a few forceps deliveries are of little value and may do more harm than good. There would seem to be only two viable solutions to this dilemma: 1) abandon attempts to teach forceps and prepare residents for a real-world practice setting in which management of second-stage labor does not include the availability forceps delivery; or 2) prioritize the development of high-fidelity simulation models in which fetal head size and attitude and pelvic size and architecture can be continuously varied to allow residents to obtain sufficient experience to know both how and when to proceed with forceps delivery. We believe this latter approach is the sole alternative to inevitable extinction of this species.

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