Untreated 4th degree tears can deprive a woman of her ability to work, socialise and bring up her baby as she may have wanted. It can impact severely on her relationships and her self-confidence and psychological health.
What is a 4th degree tear?
A 4th degree tear is a type of injury affecting the perineum and anus following vaginal childbirth.
Most women suffer a tear of some degree during vaginal childbirth but, thankfully, only a few experience a severe 4th degree injury.
A 4th degree tear has been described by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists as ‘injury to the perineum involving the anal sphincter complex and anorectal mucosa’.
What does this mean? In short, it means that the skin and muscle from the vagina to the anus is torn and that the injury continues to affect both the external and internal muscles of the anus as well as the internal lining of the anus.
Symptoms of a 4th degree tear
A woman with a 4th degree tear is likely to be experiencing a degree of anal incontinence. With a 4th degree tear, her incontinence is likely to be significantly worse than with a 3rd degree tear.
This means that she will probably be finding it difficult to prevent the passing of wind and faeces.
If the damage to the lining of her anal canal has caused a fistula or hole to develop between her bowel and her vagina, she may also find that she is leaking faeces and wind through the vagina.
These are not only highly-distressing and embarrassing symptoms but they can also make it extremely difficult to travel and work. Types of work which involve significant interaction with the public, such as education, retail, tourism and hospitality can become almost impossible to undertake.
Diagnosing 4th degree tears
Women who have given birth vaginally should receive a thorough examination after the birth. This should include a digital, rectal examination which means that the medical practitioner inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to check for any damage. If necessary, specialist advice should be sought in order to ensure an accurate diagnosis of any damage is made.
Failing to diagnose a 4th degree tear
If a 4th degree tear is missed completely or misdiagnosed as a less severe injury, the woman will not receive an adequate repair. This is likely to mean that she will continue to suffer debilitating symptoms which may get worse if the injury deteriorates.
A failure to diagnose perineal and anal damage following a vaginal birth can have catastrophic effects and can be the cause of a claim for compensation.
Speak to a solicitor
If you are suffering the long-term impact of a 4th degree tear due to a failure to diagnose your injury accurately, contact us today. We have supported numerous women in making claims for the damage they have suffered and will be very happy to advise you.
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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.