Around 90% of women will tear during childbirth. A small number of these will suffer a severe tear which extends into the anal sphincter muscles.
How many people suffer a third degree tear?
The rate of women sustaining a third or fourth degree tear during their first vaginal birth has increased. In 2000 just 1.8% of women in the UK having the birth vaginal delivery had a third or fourth degree tear. In 2011 the rate was found to have risen to 5.9%.
The increase in numbers may in fact be due to better detection and reporting of severe perineal tears. However, it is likely that the increase in maternal age and weight are also factors, as both are associated with an increased risk of perineal tears.
The results of a recently published study also reveal that women are more likely to tear during their second vaginal delivery if they had a third or fourth degree tear the first time round.
Of women who formerly had a severe tear, 7.2% sustained another severe tear during the second delivery. Of the women who did not have a severe tear during their first birth, just 1.3% had a severe tear during the second delivery.
Will I suffer a third degree tear?
It is not usually possible to prevent or predict a third degree tear. There are things that will raise the possibility of a severe perineal tear, including:
- Shoulder dystocia
- Long second stage of labour
- First vaginal birth
- Large baby
- Induced labour
- Assisted delivery
If a woman gives birth vaginally and she has one or more of these risk factors, medical practitioners should be aware that there is a good chance she has sustained a severe tear. In any event, all women who have a vaginal birth will be examined afterwards to check for perineal tears. This will ensure that any injury is diagnosed and repaired.
What if my third degree tear is missed?
The reason why an examination is performed after a vaginal birth is to make sure perineal tears are not missed and therefore left unrepaired.
However, there are occasions when a third degree tear is not diagnosed. Normally this is because an examination is not performed, or the examination was performed by an incompetent clinician.
When a third degree tear is missed, there will be a case of medical negligence. This means the patient will be entitled to claim compensation. Contact us to find out more.