It seems strange to link giving birth to the possibility of a lifetime of wind and faecal incontinence but, without careful assessment by medical practitioners, this outcome is distinctly possible.
Perineal damage in childbirth
Vaginal childbirth frequently causes damage to the area between the vagina and the anus. In fact, around 9 in 10 women are thought to suffer some degree of injury when giving birth.
In a few cases, perhaps 5 – 10% of vaginal births, the damage is so severe as to injure the anal sphincter muscles which control the bowel.
In these circumstances, the woman is at risk of developing both wind and faecal incontinence.
This is more likely to occur in the following situations:
- Where the woman is giving birth to a large baby
- Where an instrumental delivery with ventouse or forceps is necessary
- If the baby experiences shoulder dystocia and becomes stuck behind the woman’s pubic bone
If a woman has suffered a severe 3rd or 4th degree tear during the birth of her baby, it is vital that she is examined immediately after the birth in order to diagnose any damage precisely.
This should ensure that an appropriate and full repair should take place. Without such a repair, a degree of incontinence and urgency may become a regular feature of the woman’s life, making socialising, travelling and working almost impossible.
Occasionally, even when an accurate diagnosis is made, the repair may be inadequate either in terms of extent or accuracy of the repair. In these circumstances, the repair may break down and the woman may develop a fistula between the rectum and vagina, allowing wind and faeces to leak via the vagina.
Failure to diagnose
If the attending medical professionals do not carry out a full examination of the woman’s perineal region and anus shortly after the birth, an accurate diagnosis is unlikely. A repair may then not occur at all or it may be inadequate. If the woman subsequently develops long-term bowel problems, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation.
Speak to a solicitor
If you are suffering the shocking long-term effects of a misdiagnosed or unrepaired severe perineal tear, contact us to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor.
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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.