While fourth degree tears are not common in the UK, they can affect women giving birth by way of vaginal delivery.
Who will get a fourth degree tear?
A fourth degree tear is when the perineum, anal sphincters and rectum tear during childbirth. The injury can theoretically affect any woman giving birth vaginally, although the risk is increased if one or more of the following factors are at play:
- First vaginal birth
- Large baby (more than 4kg)
- Shoulder dystocia
- Forceps/ventouse delivery
- Induction of labour
How often do fourth degree tears happen?
It is difficult to say exactly how many women in the UK will suffer a fourth degree tear.
In 2008, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists estimated that each year 9% of women giving birth in the UK will sustain either a third or fourth degree tear. A third degree tear is similar to a fourth degree tear but does not involve the rectum.
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust issued a patient information leaflet in 2011 suggesting that 2% of women suffer a third or fourth degree tear each year.
The figures are therefore slightly different, and are also not distinct from third degree tears. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that fourth degree tears that not particularly common in the UK.
Fourth degree tear complications
In the same leaflet, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust estimates that around 20% of women will develop complications after a severe perineal tear. This can include perineal pain, faecal urgency and incontinence.
The problems may resolve with physiotherapy. However, it is possible that complications continue in the long-term. This is much more prevalent amongst women whose fourth degree tear was missed, and was not therefore repaired.
Missed fourth degree tear
If a fourth degree tear is not diagnosed and repaired, the level of care will not be of the standard expected. This represents a breach of duty. If this breach of duty causes a patient to develop complications – such as faecal urgency – there will be grounds for a medical negligence compensation claim.
To find out if you can claim compensation for a fourth degree tear, please get in touch with us at Glynns Solicitors. We specialise in these claims and have helped a number of women obtain the compensation they deserve. Although this will not undo the trauma you have experienced, it will provide some form of recompense.