Perineal damage during childbirth can cause both superficial and severe damage and it is crucial that a correct diagnosis is made in order to prevent appalling long-term damage.
Injuries around the vagina and anus caused by childbirth are described as perineal tears.
There are several different types of perineal tear which cause varying degrees of damage and need to be treated in different ways.
It is important that the type of injury experienced by a woman during labour is precisely diagnosed and described in order to achieve an appropriate repair. Therefore, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists offers a system of classification to provide accurate identification.
The lower degrees of tear cause less damage and are more likely to heal quickly, whereas the higher degrees of tear – 3rd and 4th – cause far more severe damage and require surgery in order to try to bring about recovery of function.
Types of tear
The RCOG emphasises the need for clear identification of any injury through a thorough examination of the woman’s perineum immediately after the birth. Their guidelines describe the differing degrees of damage as follows:
- A 1st degree tear causes injury to the skin of the perineum (area between the vagina and anus)
- A 2nd degree tear also causes damage to the muscles between the vagina and anus
- A 3rd degree tear additionally injures the anal sphincter muscles, with sub-categories depending on whether only the external sphincter is damaged or whether the internal sphincter is also affected which may be harder to diagnose and repair and which might cause a greater level of bowel dysfunction
- A 4th degree tear also damages the internal anorectal mucosa which lines the anal canal
Medical Negligence and Perineal Tears
Compensation claims regarding perineal tears usually relate to third or fourth degree tears where they are misdiagnosed as a lesser tear – and therefore, not repaired thoroughly – or where they are missed entirely.
A severe perineal tear which is not appropriately repaired can leave the woman with highly distressing debilitating symptoms of wind and faecal incontinence. This means that she cannot prevent passing wind or waste matter.
Understandably, this can be devastating to a woman’s working life, her social life and her personal life, and might justify a claim for compensation.
Contact us today to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor if this has been your experience.
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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.