Around 5% of women giving birth for the first time are thought to suffer a severe perineal tear due to the birth. However, these are not always diagnosed and can lead to appalling long-term symptoms if not repaired.
Symptoms of an undiagnosed perineal tear
If you have recently given birth and are experiencing any of the following problems, you may have an undiagnosed third or fourth degree tear:
- Urgency when needing to go to the toilet – only having a few minutes to get to the toilet
- Leaking faeces without realising
- Leaking faeces via the vagina instead of the anus
- Passing wind without being able to control it
If you have given birth vaginally, it is possible that a tear occurred. This is particularly likely if this was your first child, if the baby was large or if you had an instrumental delivery.
If you suffered a severe tear –a third of fourth degree tear – this should have been identified at the time of the birth and surgically repaired in an operating theatre by a surgeon.
However, if you have suffered a tear which has not been repaired or has been poorly repaired, it could explain the symptoms you are currently suffering.
Why a tear can cause incontinence
If you receive a small tear – a 1st or 2nd degree tear – during childbirth, you are likely to feel sore and uncomfortable for a while but the injury should heal quickly and fully.
If you experience a severe tear, however, it causes damage to the anus as well as the perineum and this can reduce your ability to control your bowels and prevent the passing of wind and faeces involuntarily. This is why it is so important that such damage is repaired immediately after the birth. When surgery is delayed, the repair may not be as successful.
If you have developed a fistula (a hole between your bowel and vagina) due to your unrepaired tear, you may be leaking wind and faeces through the vagina. This can be extremely distressing.
As well as suffering the physical symptoms, an unrepaired tear may mean that you have to undergo surgery at a later date to try to repair the damage. This may even require you to have a temporary colostomy while the bowel heals. Even then, you may continue to experience on-going symptoms.
A failure to diagnose and repair a severe perineal tear can sometimes be regarded as medical negligence.
If you continue to suffer the appalling symptoms identified above due to a failure to diagnose your injury, contact us to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor about the possibility of a compensation claim. This can help with any on-going financial losses you may be experiencing due to difficulties with returning to work.
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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.