If you are told that you have sustained a third degree tear during birth, it means that you have suffered a serious perineal injury.
3rd degree tear
A third degree tear happens when the baby’s head and shoulders are being delivered. The vaginal opening and perineum may not be able to stretch wide enough to allow the passing of the baby, causing the tissue to tear.
Perineal tears are not uncommon during vaginal births, although third degree tears only affect a small percentage of women each year.
Types of third degree tear
If you are told that you have a third degree tear, it means that you have a tear involving the vaginal epithelium, perineal skin, perineal body and anal sphincters.
There are different types of third degree tear, with the classification depending upon the depth of the injury. You should be told by medical practitioners whether you have a 3a, 3b or 3c tear. These can be defined as follows:
- 3a: partial tear of the external sphincter involving less than 50% thickness;
- 3b: tear of the external sphincter involving more than 50% thickness;
- 3c: external and internal sphincter torn.
What does a third degree tear mean in terms of recovery?
If you sustain a third degree tear, it must be repaired in theatre by a surgeon. The injury will be sutured together with dissolvable stitches. The area will be sore for some weeks afterwards, and you will need to take care of the wound by keeping it clean and getting oxygen to the stitches.
This means that the recovery time will be longer than a woman who has not sustained a third degree tear. You will also need to take medication such as antibiotics to ensure an infection does not arise.
Nevertheless, it is possible to make a full recovery after a third degree tear. As long as you do make a good recovery, you will be able to have further vaginal deliveries in the future. Just because you suffer a third degree tear does not mean that you will develop complications often associated with traumatic childbirth, such as incontinence.
Complications after third degree tear
However, a woman may develop ongoing symptoms after a third degree tear. This risk will be significantly reduced with a timely repair. Indeed, if the injury is sutured shortly after birth, the patient stands a much better chance of making a recovery. But if there is a delay in treatment, there is an increased risk of complications arising.
If you develop complications because your third degree tear was not treated properly, there may be a case of medical negligence. Contact us to find out more.