Third degree tears are a natural occurrence and cannot always be prevented. Nevertheless, there are certain things you can do before and during the birth to help you avoid a tear.
Can a third degree tear be prevented?
A third degree tear is when the perineum and external anal sphincter tear during a vaginal delivery.
Perineal tears will not affect every woman who gives birth. It is predicted that around 9% of women in the UK will sustain a severe tear (which is either a third or fourth degree tear) during birth. Therefore it is a relatively small number.
If a woman does suffer a tear, it is not normally something that can be blamed upon the medical care provided. Indeed, perineal tears are a natural part of childbirth; when they do happen, it is considered to be an unfortunate but accepted risk of vaginal deliveries.
Even so, there are certain steps that can be taken to minimise this risk, both before and during the birth. These are explored in more detail below.
Before the birth
Before the birth, it is a good idea to perform pelvic floor exercises as this will strengthen the muscles in preparation for the delivery. It may also be beneficial to massage the perineum in the weeks leading up to the birth to improve elasticity. It is thought that both these steps can help to minimise the risk of perineal tears.
During the birth
During the birth, there are things that will increase the likelihood of a perineal tear occurring, including:
- A poorly performed episiotomy
- An epidural
- An assisted delivery
- A prolonged second stage of labour
- Pushing before the cervix is fully dilated
If possible, you should try to manage the birth to prevent these circumstances arising.
Of course it will not always be possible to avoid these situations – for example, an assisted delivery will be necessary if there are concerns about the baby’s health, and it is not something that can really be refused.
However, it is important not to push until told to do so, and to raise concerns if the second stage of labour continues beyond the recommended guidelines.
After the birth
If a third degree tear does happen, the most important thing is that it is properly repaired after the birth. This is absolutely paramount as it will help to prevent further complications arising, including faecal urgency and incontinence.
If medical practitioners fail to provide this level of care, resulting in third degree tear complications, there will be grounds for a medical negligence claim. Contact us today to find out more.