After a woman has given birth, she must be examined to check whether or not she has sustained a tear. This must include a digital rectal examination.
Why is an examination needed?
During a vaginal birth, the perineum will stretch as the baby’s head and shoulders are delivered. Sometimes it cannot stretch far enough and the skin will split. This is called a perineal tear.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), around 90% of women will tear to some extent during childbirth. These tears will need to be treated before a woman is discharged from hospital, or the wound will not heal properly.
That is why an examination is needed after vaginal deliveries, as it is the only way to determine whether or not a patient has suffered a perineal tear.
What happens during the examination?
The examination should be carried out shortly after the birth. It can be done by a midwife or a doctor.
Before the examination a patient should be advised of what will the examination involves and why it is necessary. Sufficient pain relief should be put in place and, if the wound cannot be adequately seen, a patient put in the lithotomy position.
The midwife or doctor will then carry out a visual and physical examination of the wound. A thumb should be inserted into the vagina and a finger into the anus and a pin-rolling motion carried out. This will verify whether the anal sphincters have suffered damage. If the midwife or doctor is uncertain, a woman should be asked to contract her anal sphincter.
Why is a digital rectal examination so important?
It is important that the digital rectal examination is not bypassed, as this is the only way to tell whether the anal sphincter has been disrupted. A medical professional will not be able to diagnose a third or fourth degree tear with a visual examination alone because often the skin will look intact, but underneath there is a large laceration.
Unfortunately, however, there are times when medical professionals neglect to carry out a digital rectal examination, or fail to examine a patient whatsoever. In such cases the level of care will be considered substandard. If this causes a patient injury – because she leaves hospital with an undiagnosed and unrepaired tear – there will be grounds for a compensation claim.
Was your perineal tear missed?
If your perineal tear was not diagnosed because medical professionals failed to carry out an examination after the delivery, you will be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. Get in touch with us today to find out more.
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