Women report feeling dirty and ashamed when they develop a fistula following a childbirth injury. Some continue to suffer for years when their problem is not recognised.
What is a fistula?
If a woman suffers a 4th degree tear during the birth of her child, it is possible that a fistula may subsequently develop between her rectum and her vagina. This means that a hole exists between these two parts of the body which would not ordinarily be there. This is called a rectovaginal fistula.
The effect of this can be that the woman starts to leak wind or faeces or both via her vagina rather than via the anus. She is unlikely to have any control over this process.
Understandably, this can be embarrassing, distressing and extremely confusing for the woman affected.
What causes a fistula after childbirth?
In some circumstances, a vaginal birth can cause the woman to suffer a severe tear. If the baby is large and becomes stuck behind the pubic bone, or if labour is protracted, for example, the skin and muscle of the perineum, and the anus may tear under the pressure of the birth.
A 4th degree tear is the most extreme form of perineal tear as it injures the inside of the anus as well as the external muscle. If the tear is not repaired effectively, the surrounding tissue may break down and a hole (or fistula) develop between the rectum and the neighbouring vagina.
Repairing a 4th Degree Tear
If a 4th degree tear is diagnosed at the time of the birth and repaired competently, the woman has the best chance of a good recovery.
However, this can only happen if the tear is accurately diagnosed in the first place.
If the tear is misdiagnosed, or not identified at all, the woman may go on to suffer appalling symptoms for years.
Symptoms of a 4th degree tear
If the woman has suffered a 4th degree tear, she will have an injury to her anal sphincter muscles as well as the lining of her anal canal, meaning that she may have little or no control over her bowels.
If she additionally develops a fistula, she may also involuntarily leak faeces from her vagina.
This distressing situation is frequently compounded by a feeling that nobody understands what the woman is going through and the impact on her physical and emotional health.
If you continue to suffer with the dreadful symptoms of a 4th degree tear which was poorly treated, you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact Glynns Solicitors. We are a specialist medical negligence legal practice with a focus on obstetric injuries in childbirth. We would be very happy to discuss your situation and advise you.