If you had a badly performed episiotomy and this caused a third degree tear to occur, you could be entitled to compensation. To find out more, you need to speak to a legal expert without delay.
How does an episiotomy lead to a third degree tear?
An episiotomy is a deliberate cut made to the perineum during the course of a vaginal delivery. It is done when the birth needs to be accelerated because the mother and/or baby are showing signs of distress. It is no longer done as a matter of routine.
Previously the cut would have extended in a straight downwards line. This is known as a mid-line episiotomy. However, it has become apparent that this actually increases the risk of perineal muscle damage and so is no longer practiced by medical professionals in the UK.
Because of this risk, medical professionals now use medio-lateral episiotomies, where a diagonal cut is made. This significantly reduces the likelihood that an episiotomy will actually contribute towards a third or fourth degree tear.
Usually, therefore, it is only poorly performed episiotomies that lead to a third degree tear. This happens because the cut will weaken the perineal muscles, making it more likely that the perineum will rip even further as the baby is delivered.
If the cut goes straight downwards (a mid-line episiotomy) the tear will also go straight downwards, extending to the anal sphincter. This is a severe injury that will either amount to a third or fourth degree tear.
Can you claim if an episiotomy caused a third degree tear?
Third degree tears cannot always be prevented, so the fact such an injury has happened will not normally amount to negligence. However, there may be grounds for a claim if an episiotomy was poorly performed and this directly caused a third degree tear to happen.
For example, if medical professionals performed a mid-line episiotomy rather than a medio-later episiotomy, the standard of care will be considered substandard. This will also be true if the cut was made with blunt scissors, was carried out too early, or was performed without reason (i.e. neither mother nor baby were distressed).
There will also be grounds for a claim if third degree tear happens but medical professionals do not diagnose the injury. In such cases, the episiotomy wound will be sutured together but the damage to the deeper layers of muscle will be missed. This will lead to a number of complications such as faecal incontinence and faeces leaking from the vagina.
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