The failure to repair a perineal tear effectively after childbirth may have an extremely distressing and life-changing impact on the woman affected.
The impact of a failed repair
Some perineal tears (1st and 2nd degree tears) are less severe and an inadequate repair may not make much difference to the long-term recovery of the new mother.
Where a woman has suffered a third or fourth degree tear, however, an inadequate tear can be far more unpleasant. In these circumstances, the woman’s anal sphincter muscles will have been damaged by the birth of her baby and a prompt and competent repair is absolutely crucial. Where the repair is of a poor quality, the woman may start to experience the following, debilitating symptoms:
- Extreme urgency when needing to go to the toilet
- Inability to prevent the passing of faeces (incontinence)
- Inability to prevent the passing of wind
- Repeat infections of the perineum
A failed repair may occur for a variety of reasons.
The best methods for repairing anal sphincter damage vary according to the area of damage. For example, damage to the external sphincter will require a different technique of repair to the lining of the anal canal which can also be damaged by a perineal tear.
Using an inappropriate and less effective method may result in the repair breaking down and the woman starting to experience bowel problems. A second attempt at surgery at this point is less likely to be successful than had the repair been undertaken correctly at the time of the injury.
As with techniques, it is also important that the best materials are used to achieve a repair in the different areas of damage. Again, clear guidelines are given by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and a failure to follow those guidelines may result in a failure of the stitching.
The repair of a severe perineal tear needs to be undertaken by a highly-skilled surgeon with expertise in that field.
Where the surgery is carried out by someone with insufficient experience in that type of repair, the result can be catastrophic.
Severe tear repairs should not be carried out by midwives on the maternity ward. They should be carried out in an operating theatre.
Failure to diagnose
A repair might also be regarded as failing when the injury has been misdiagnosed from the outset. If, for example, a 3c tear has been diagnosed as a 3a tear, the damage to the internal anal sphincter may go unrepaired and, therefore, the woman may continue to suffer the appalling symptoms of wind and faecal incontinence even though she believes her perineal tear has been repaired.
If a severe perineal tear repair fails and the woman suffers long-term bowel symptoms as a result, her whole life can be restricted by this outcome. In this scenario, the relevant medical practitioners may be considered to have failed in their standard of care.
Speak to a solicitor
If you are struggling with the impact of an anal sphincter injury following the birth of your child due to a failure by your medical professionals, contact us today to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor. It might be appropriate to make a claim for compensation.
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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.