A fourth degree tear is the most severe type of perineal injury that can be sustained while giving birth vaginally.
If your fourth degree tear could have been avoided, you may well be entitled to compensation. For your free, no obligation assessment by specialist solicitors, please call us now on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile click to call 01275 334030) or complete our Free Online Enquiry.
Perineal tears are an unfortunate but natural part of childbirth. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) around 90% of women will suffer some sort of tear while giving birth. Of these, approximately 9% will sustain an extensive tear, which can be classified as either a third or fourth degree tear.
What is a fourth degree tear?
The amount of damage suffered during childbirth will vary from person to person. That is why medical practitioners have developed a way of categorising tears according to the size of the injury and the types of tissue involved. These can be described as a:
1. First degree tear: injury to the vaginal epithelium or perineal skin
2. Second degree tear: injury to the perineum involving perineal muscles but not involving the anal sphincter
3. Third degree tear: injury to the perineum involving the anal sphincter complex.
4. Fourth degree tear: injury to the perineum involving the anal sphincter complex and anal mucosa.
A fourth degree tear is therefore the most serious type of birth injury as it extends from the perineum and into the external and internal anal sphincters.
Can a fourth degree tear be prevented?
A fourth degree tear cannot normally be prevented. It is a known risk of childbirth and is not something that can be anticipated.
However, there are certain factors that increase the chance of a fourth degree tear happening. These include:-
- First vaginal delivery
- The baby is large for its gestational age (called macrosomia)
- The second stage of labour is very long
- The labour is induced
- It is an assistance delivery (with forceps or ventouse)
- Birth complications such as shoulder dystocia
Medical management of a fourth degree tear
As long as a fourth degree tear is repaired shortly after the delivery, and the appropriate follow-up care is provided, a full recovery can be made. It is possible that complications will arise due to a fourth degree tear, although this usually only affects those who have been subject to a delayed diagnosis.
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If you, or your family member, has suffered a birth injury tear, please call us now for free, no obligation advice on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile click to call 01275 334030) or complete our Free Online Enquiry.