An episiotomy does not prevent a third degree tear. In fact, if the episiotomy is not performed properly, it can materially contribute towards a tear.
Does an episiotomy prevent a tear?
In the past, medical practitioners thought that an episiotomy would help to prevent a 3rd degree tear. The reasoning was that an episiotomy was a controlled cut that would not involve the anal sphincters, thereby preventing the injury extending too far. This was preferred to a natural tear which could potentially reach the internal and external anal sphincters.
However, this theory has now been disregarded. In the UK, episiotomies are no longer performed routinely as they do not prevent 3rd degree tears from occurring. Instead, episiotomies are only carried out when there is a need to do so.
The need to perform an episiotomy will arise if the birth must be accelerated, either because the mother or the foetus is showing signs of distress. The current practice is to carry out a medio-lateral episiotomy. This is when the cut is made diagonally. This differs to previous practice where it was customary to carry out a midline episiotomy, where the cut is made straight downwards.
Midline episiotomies are no longer accepted practice in the UK. If a midline episiotomy is performed, the level of care will be considered substandard.
Can an episiotomy cause a 3rd degree tear
The reason why midline episiotomies are not practiced in the UK anymore is because they are now known to increase the risk of 3rd degree tears. This risk is not applicable to medio-lateral episiotomies.
Therefore as long as the episiotomy is performed properly, it will not cause a 3rd degree tear. Nevertheless, a midline episiotomy can cause a 3rd degree tear.
3rd degree tear from midline episiotomy
If you sustained a 3rd degree tear after giving birth and you had a midline episiotomy, you will be considered the innocent victim of medical error. This is because the clinician was negligent in performing the midline episiotomy, and it is likely that this contributed towards the 3rd degree tear occurring.
If you have since developed complications from your 3rd degree tear – such as faecal urgency and incontinence – you will be able to pursue a medical negligence claim.
Contact us today
To talk to a solicitor about claiming compensation, please contact us at Glynns Solicitors. It is important not to delay as claims must be made within three years of the negligent act.