Perineal trauma – or injury to the perineum during labour – occurs to the majority of women giving birth vaginally. However, if severe damage passes undiagnosed, it may be appropriate to make a claim for compensation for the resulting symptoms.
What is perineal trauma?
The term ‘perineal trauma’ refers to damage that occurs to the area around the vagina during vaginal childbirth.
When the baby is born, especially where the baby is large or an instrumental delivery is necessary, the perineum needs to stretch and, in many cases, this leads to a splitting or tearing of the skin and muscle.
Incidence of perineal trauma
For the majority of women, the tear will be small and will heal quickly. In approximately 5% of cases, however, the damage can be severe. In addition to injuring the perineum, it can cause debilitating damage to the external and internal anal sphincter. These are the muscles which control the bowel and both prevent and allow the passing of wind and faeces.
Diagnosis of perineal trauma
Perineal trauma should be assessed and diagnosed as soon after the birth as is possible and appropriate.
A thorough examination should include a digital, rectal examination to check for any sign of anal damage. This requires the relevant medical professional – a midwife or doctor – to insert a gloved finger into the woman’s anus.
If the anus has been damaged during the birth, the injury needs to be classified precisely as a 3rd or 4th degree tear and repaired promptly and competently by a trained professional.
Long-term symptoms of perineal trauma
If a third or fourth degree tear is misdiagnosed, the woman may suffer unpleasant and life-changing bowel symptoms for years to come. This is likely to include an inability to control wind as well as urgency when needing the toilet – or complete incontinence.
The woman may have to undergo additional surgery to try to improve her symptoms and may even require a stoma to help her body to deal with waste matter.
Such symptoms can dramatically restrict the type of work a woman is subsequently able to do and impact on her social and personal life as well as her ability to raise her children as she might have wished.
If severe obstetric damage is accurately diagnosed and promptly repaired, there is a very good chance that the woman will make a full recovery of bowel function.
If severe damage is misdiagnosed, however, or the repair is substandard, leaving the woman with long-term symptoms, it may be appropriate to make a claim for compensation.
If you are suffering with the impact of a severe tear due to misdiagnosis, contact us to discuss your experience with a specialist medical negligence solicitor.
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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.