The moments after birth can be busy and confusing and the severity of a perineal tear can be missed. For the new mother, this can have catastrophic outcomes.
What are perineal tears?
Perineal tears are injuries that can damage the perineum and anus of the new mother during the birth of the baby.
Depending on a variety of factors, the tear can vary from small and superficial to severe and, potentially, life-changing. For example, a 1st degree tear will only affect the skin of the perineum between the vagina and the anus and should heal quickly and fully. A 4th degree tear, however – the most severe form of perineal tear – will tear the skin and muscle of the perineum, going on to damage the anal sphincter and the internal lining of the anal canal.
Can midwives diagnose perineal tears?
A midwife should be able to diagnose a perineal tear and it is vital that, if she does, she makes a clear record of the type of tear which has occurred. A new mother should be thoroughly examined after the birth of her child for just this purpose.
If there is any sign of perineal damage and if the midwife is uncertain, she should seek additional help in order to clarify precisely the extent and nature of any damage done to the woman.
Why does it matter?
The accuracy of diagnosis is important for a number of reasons.
A severe perineal tear – i.e. a 3rd or 4th degree tear – needs to be repaired in an operating theatre by an experienced surgeon. It should not be repaired by a midwife. This should help to ensure a thorough and competent repair.
A misdiagnosis can mean that the woman receives an inadequate repair or, possibly, no repair at all. This can lead to life-long distressing symptoms of faecal and wind incontinence which can impact on a woman’s ability to work as well as affecting her functioning as a mother.
A crisis in midwifery?
Recent financial and political developments seem to be creating a shortage in the number of midwives working in the UK with more leaving than joining the profession.
According to the website of the Royal College of Midwives, England alone is currently 3500 short of the required number.
If you have suffered the appalling effects of a severe perineal tear due to a failure to diagnose your injury accurately, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.
Contact Glynns Solicitor to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor with experience of perineal tear claims.