3rd degree tears are more likely to affect women whose labour was induced. A 3rd degree tear is a serious perineal injury and must be sutured shortly after the birth.
Why would labour be induced?
If a labour does not progress naturally, a patient may need to be induced – meaning started artificially. This will be offered to every woman in the UK who has not given birth after 42 weeks of pregnancy.
It may also be needed if more than 24 hours pass between a patient’s waters breaking and the delivery starting, or mother and baby will be at risk of infection.
Furthermore, a birth may be induced before the pregnancy reaches full term if either the mother or the baby has a health problem. For example, a woman with gestational diabetes may be induced at 38 weeks if she has a very large baby.
What does induction of labour involve?
The induction of labour involves inserting a tablet or gel into the vagina. This contains hormone-like substances that can help stimulate contractions. If this does not work, a patient may be administered hormones through an intravenous drip.
It can take some time for the hormones to begin working. A patient can even be sent home to wait for the contractions to begin. If still nothing happens, medical practitioners should review the patient and decide whether a caesarean section is required.
Side effects of induced labour
Labour that is started artificially is more painful than labour that begins naturally. This is because the induction of labour causes contractions that are faster and stronger than normal. Consequently women whose labour has been induced are more likely to request an epidural.
It is also more likely that a woman whose labour was induced will sustain a 3rd degree tear. It is estimated that the risk of a 3rd degree tear is increased by 2% if the labour is induced.
What should happen if there is a 3rd degree tear?
If a patient does suffer a 3rd degree tear, the injury should be sutured in theatre by a surgeon.
The most important thing is that the tear is accurately diagnosed and treated. Afterwards treatment should continue on the ward with antibiotics, constipating agents (to allow time for the wound to heal) and regular monitoring.
Unfortunately a 3rd degree tear is not always recognised and repaired, leaving a patient with an untreated injury. If this does happen, there may be a case of medical negligence. Contact us to find out more.