Third degree tears are a type of perineal injury sustained during the vaginal delivery of a baby.
What is a third degree tear?
A third degree tear is a perineal injury that can be suffered by a woman while she is giving birth by way of vaginal delivery. It will not happen to every woman, with only around 9% of patients in the UK sustaining a serious tear during birth – this includes third and fourth degree tears. A third degree tear is a laceration that extends from the vaginal opening, through the perineal body and into the anal sphincter. Third degree tears are subdivided into 3a, 3b and 3c tears, depending upon how far the injury extends into the anal sphincter. The different types of third degree tear can be defined as follows:
- 3a: a third degree tear that involves a partial tear of the external sphincter involving less than 50% thickness;
- 3b: a third degree tear that extends to the external sphincter involving more than 50% thickness;
- 3c: a third degree tear in which the external and internal sphincters are torn.
Life after a third degree tear
As long as a third degree tear is diagnosed and repaired shortly after the delivery, a woman should go on to make a full recovery. Sadly some will experience long-term complaints such as faecal urgency and the inability to control wind, symptoms which arise due to the damage sustained by the anal sphincter. Nevertheless, the majority of patients will make a complete recovery and will be able to give birth by way of vaginal delivery in the future, should they wish to do so. Ordinarily, these long-term problems are only suffered by those who did not have a proper repair – either due to a delay in diagnosis, or due to a poor surgical technique.
Can I claim compensation?
If you have experienced third degree tear problems because of a medical error, you may be able to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim. This is because you have suffered harm due to substandard medical care. Indeed, failing to diagnose and repair a third degree tear is not acceptable in the UK. Any reasonably competent medical practitioner should be able to recognise the injury and refer a patient to a qualified surgeon for a repair. The surgeon should identify the full length of the injury and repair the entire defect using an appropriate surgical technique. If midwives and doctors fail to achieve this standard of care, resulting in wrongful injury, there will be grounds for a claim. Contact us today for more information.