There are different types of perineal tear which are categorised according to the severity of the injury. In this article we explain what a perineal tear is, the type of perineal tear and when you can claim compensation for an obstetric injury.
What is a perineal tear?
During a vaginal delivery the cervix will dilate to 10cms, at which point the mother can start pushing. Despite the cervix being fully dilated, the vaginal opening will stretch as the baby is delivered, putting the perineum (the area between the vagina and anus) under strain. However, the tissue can only stretch so far, after which the perineum will tear. When this happens, a woman is said to have a perineal tear.
Types of perineal tear
Perineal tears will vary in severity; some women will have a small abrasion while others will have a deep laceration that extends to the anal sphincter. Because of this variation, medical professionals have devised a perineal tear classification system, allowing them to categorise the extent of the injury.
There are four different types of perineal tear, with a first degree tear being the most minor and a fourth degree tear being the most severe. Each injury can be described as follows:-
- First degree tear: laceration of the vaginal epithelium (the tissue lining the vagina) or perineal skin only.
- Second degree tear: laceration of the perineal muscles and fascia as well as the vaginal epithelium and perineal skin. The anal sphincter is not involved.
- Third degree tear: laceration of the anal sphincters, as well as the vaginal epithelium, perineal skin, perineal body. Third degree tears can be further subdivided into:
- partial tear of the external sphincter involving less than 50% thickness;
- tear of the external sphincter involving more than 50% thickness;
- external and internal sphincter torn;
- Fourth degree tear: the same as a third degree tear, but the injury extends to the tissue underneath (the anal epithelium).
Claiming compensation for a perineal tear
Perineal tears are a natural part of childbirth and cannot be prevented. Therefore the occurrence of a perineal tear in itself will not normally be considered negligent, unless of course the actions of medical professionals caused a tear to happen.
However, compensation claims often arise when medical professionals fail to diagnose a severe tear (i.e. a third or fourth degree tear) after the delivery. This will be considered negligent as all women should undergo a routine examination to ensure any perineal tears are diagnosed and repaired.
If you or your loved one has suffered because of a missed perineal tear, get in touch with a solicitor today, as you could be entitled to compensation.
Free, No Obligation Enquiry