Was your 4th degree tear missed by a midwife or doctor? It should have been diagnosed soon after you gave birth and a repair carried out immediately. If you did not receive this standard of care, please get in touch with us to discuss making a claim.
I’ve just been told I have a 4th degree tear
If you have just been told that you have a 4th degree tear, even though you gave birth some time ago, you will undoubtedly have a number of questions. For example: what does it mean to have a 4th degree tear? Why did it happen? And why has it only just been diagnosed?
We will look at these questions in turn, helping you to understand what has happened to you.
What does it mean to have a 4th degree tear?
A 4th degree tear is an obstetric perineal injury that women can sustain while giving birth vaginally. It involves a tear that begins at the vaginal opening and extends down through the perineum, into the external and internal anal sphincters. Therefore it is a severe tear, and in fact is the most serious type of perineal tear that can be suffered while giving birth.
Why did a 4th degree tear happen?
Around 9% of women in the UK will have a 3rd or 4th degree tear during childbirth. Therefore 4th degree tears are not common, but they do occur. It is not possible to predict who will have a 4th degree tear, although some will be more at risk, including those who have an assisted delivery or a very large baby.
The tear happens because the vaginal opening cannot stretch wide to allow the passage of the baby’s head and shoulders. The surrounding tissue rips as a result. For some women, this tear will go all the way down to the internal anal sphincter, representing a 4th degree tear.
Why has my 4th degree tear only just been diagnosed?
A 4th degree tear is not negligent in itself. Perineal injuries are a possible side effect of a vaginal delivery. They should be diagnosed by either a midwife or doctor after the birth during a routine examination. A repair should be conducted soon afterwards by a surgeon in theatre. The repair is intricate, so requires a specialist rather than a midwife or junior doctor.
If your 4th degree tear has only just been diagnosed, even though you gave birth days, weeks, months or years ago, it means there has been a mistake on the part of medical practitioners. Either an examination was not carried out after the birth, the wrong type of tear was diagnosed, or the injury was missed entirely.
Can I sue for medical error?
Failing to diagnose a 4th degree tear will amount to a substandard level of care. If this has caused you to develop problems such as faecal incontinence, you will be entitled to sue those responsible.
To find out if you can claim for a missed 4th degree tear, please get in touch with us today. We have significant experience in dealing with missed 4th degree tear claims and can help you get the compensation you deserve.