An undiagnosed third degree tear or a misdiagnosed tear can leave a woman unable to control the passing of wind and have a significant impact on her life – personally, professionally and socially.
Third degree perineal damage
A third degree tear sustained during childbirth causes damage to the skin and muscle of the perineum – the area between the vagina and anus. It will also damage the anus itself impacting on the woman’s ability to control the functioning of her bowel.
A third degree tear is diagnosed according to the extent of damage caused to the anal muscles:
- It may cause damage to less than 50% thickness of the anal external sphincter (a 3a tear)
- It may cause damage to more than 50% thickness of the external sphincter (a 3b tear)
- It may additionally cause damage to the internal sphincter (a 3c tear)
Impact of damage
The more extensive the damage caused by a third degree tear, the more debilitating the symptoms subsequently experienced by the new mother may be.
If the anal sphincter muscles are damaged, it is likely that the woman will start to experience wind incontinence. This means that she may be unable to prevent, or have difficulty in preventing, the passing of wind.
This can, understandably, be very embarrassing, and can significantly restrict the type of work the woman may feel able to do. Professions which involve significant interaction with the public – such as hospitality, education, retail – may become impossible to pursue.
Manu women who suffer with the symptoms of a third degree tear also find that their personal relationships suffer as a result and their social lives become restricted due to fear of embarrassment.
Loss of control of the anal muscles can also lead to faecal urgency or, in the worst cases, faecal incontinence.
Many women in these circumstances find that their lives come to revolve around their bowel function and their need to always be close to a toilet.
The need for accurate diagnosis
It may not always be possible to avoid a third degree tear during vaginal childbirth. It is, therefore, absolutely crucial that the damage is identified, accurately diagnosed and thoroughly repaired as soon as possible after the birth. This will give the woman the best chance of a good recovery.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has observed that 60%-80% of women who have undergone a repair of their external anal sphincter are free of symptoms within 12 months.
A failure to diagnose or an inadequate repair, however, can lead to the distressing and debilitating symptoms mentioned earlier.
If you are suffering with the long-term symptoms of an undiagnosed or misdiagnosed tear after childbirth, contact us to discuss whether a claim for compensation might be appropriate.
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If you, or your family member, has suffered a birth injury tear, please call us now for free, no obligation advice on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile click to call 01275 334030) or complete our Free Online Enquiry.