It might seem strange to connect an examination of the anus with the process of giving birth but a failure to carry out such as examination can result in shocking on-going symptoms.
Obstetric anal sphincter injuries
Anal damage following the birth of a child can seem pretty shocking. It isn’t something that is often talked about and many women who suffer such damage and its appalling effects, are frequently too embarrassed even to tell their friends.
The reality is that anal injuries affect around 5% of women who give birth vaginally and there is some evidence to suggest that this is increasing. Sadly, such damage is even more likely to occur to women giving birth for the very first time.
A further truth is that, in some cases, the long-term nature of these injuries and their associated symptoms could have been avoided if the medical professionals who attended the birth had carried out a more thorough examination of the new mother shortly after the birth of her baby in order to check for any signs of injury.
The effects of anal sphincter injuries
A tear to the perineum during the birth of a baby can cause damage extending from the vagina across the perineum and on to the anal sphincter muscles and internal lining of the anal canal.
Unrepaired, these injuries can cause shocking effects:
- Extreme urgency when needing the toilet
- Inability to prevent the passing of faeces (incontinence)
- Inability to control the passing of wind (wind incontinence)
- Leakage form the vagina
- Embarrassment and discomfort during sexual intercourse
- Infections of the perineum
In some situations, surgery is attempted at a later date once a diagnosis has been made but this may not be as successful as it would have been had the surgery occurred at the time of the initial injury. Sometimes, a stoma is necessary as either a temporary or permanent method of facilitating the function of the bowel.
The social and psychological impact of injuries such as these can be imagined. Women can become increasingly reluctant to leave the home due to a fear of incontinence and therefore become isolated and distressed. Travel and work become major hurdles.
Diagnosing anal sphincter injuries
Whilst these severe injuries (also described as third and fourth degree tears) cannot always be avoided, a prompt and accurate diagnosis followed by competent surgery can frequently bring about a full recovery. In order to achieve this, a full examination, including a digital, rectal examination is necessary.
A failure to diagnose means a repair is unlikely and distressing symptoms become almost inevitable.
A failure to carry out a thorough examination after the birth of a child may be considered to be substandard care. It may be appropriate to make a claim for compensation for the pain and suffering experienced and the subsequent loss of earnings.
Speak to a solicitor
If you are suffering these appalling symptoms due to a failure by your medical professionals to carry out a thorough examination after the birth of your baby, contact to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor about your situation.
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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.