An assisted delivery means one of two tools will make an appearance: Forceps, which look like two serving spoons and help guide the baby’s head out of the birth canal; and the vacuum extractor, a soft cup that suctions onto the baby’s head. Attached to the cup there’s a handle that helps the doctor guide delivery through the birth canal (it sounds worse than it is).
Your doctor will decide which tool to use, but will only do so if she sees signs of fetal distress or if baby is in a difficult position. She might also use a tool if you’re too tired to push, have a medical condition that makes it dangerous to push, or if the second stage of labor is just taking too long, for whatever reason. Don’t be scared by them — the labor tools just help the delivery along.
Permanent injury to baby is pretty rare (as long as your doc uses the tools properly) but, ideally, no tools will be needed in a straightforward delivery. Sometimes baby will get small marks or bruises, but these side effects disappear within a few days. As for you, the use of labor tools might mean more tearing than normal and/or urinary and bowel problems. But rest assured, the doctor won’t use a tool unless she identifies a solid reason for needing to speed up the process.