4th degree tears are the most severe forms of perineal injury experienced by women during vaginal childbirth. Their mismanagement by medical practitioners can lead to significant compensation awards.
Vaginal childbirth risks
Perineal tears are a known risk of vaginal childbirth. The majority of women suffer a tear of some degree during the birth of their baby. As the baby is born, the skin and muscles around the vagina need to stretch and this can often cause a tear to occur.
Therefore, suffering a 4th degree tear is not necessarily justification for a compensation claim. Where an instrumental birth has been considered necessary but no episiotomy carried out, there may be an argument that this has contributed to the occurrence of a 4th degree tear. However, compensation claims usually relate to the diagnosis and care of the tear once it has occurred.
Failure to repair a 4th degree tear
An unrepaired 4th degree tear can leave the new mother with extremely distressing bowel problems. In some cases, this becomes a permanent difficulty, restricting the woman’s ability to work. Some women find it increasingly difficult to leave the house due to their symptoms and their fear of episodes of incontinence.
It is absolutely vital, therefore, that a severe perineal tear is diagnosed accurately immediately after the birth and repaired in an operating theatre by a skilled surgeon as soon as possible after diagnosis.
Diagnosing 4th degree tears
A 4th degree tear will damage the internal lining of the anal canal as well as causing injury to the anal sphincter and the perineum between the vagina and the anus.
In order to diagnose a 4th degree tear accurately and fully, a thorough examination of the new mother is imperative after she has given birth. This should include an internal digital, rectal examination to check the condition of the anal sphincter and anal canal lining.
If part of the damaged in not noticed, the woman may not receive a full repair. She may well develop symptoms of faecal and wind incontinence. Or, at best, urgency when needing the toilet.
If damage to the lining of the anal canal is not repaired, the woman may develop a fistula between the rectum and the vagina, allowing wind and faeces to leak out from the vagina. Understandably, this is an extremely distressing symptom.
A failure to diagnose a severe anal sphincter injury is often regarded as substandard care on the part of the medical professionals involved. If the injury then goes unrepaired and the woman affected develops long-term, debilitating symptoms, it may be considered appropriate to make a claim for compensation.
Call us today to talk to a medical negligence solicitor about your situation if this scenario has happened to you.
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