When a woman suffers an injury during the vaginal birth of her baby, it can be difficult to understand exactly what has happened and its significance. Not only are there several different types of injury but there are several different and confusing terms used to describe the damage.
When a woman gives birth to a baby via the vagina (i.e. not through a caesarean section), there is a significant possibility that she will suffer some kind of injury to the area around the vagina. This happens because the movement of the baby as it is born forces the skin and muscle around the vagina to stretch. Such an injury is called a perineal tear.
However, perineal tears vary from small tears which are relatively superficial and heal quickly, to very severe injuries which may cause permanent and debilitating damage.
Perineal tears are generally classified as either 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th degree tears depending on how much damage they have caused.
1st and 2nd degree tears cause damage which is limited to the area between the vagina and the anus. This part of the body is called the perineum.
3rd and 4th degree tears are much more severe tears. They are also known as Obstetric Anal Sphincter Injuries (OASI) because, as well as injuring the perineum, they continue on to the anus and damage the anal sphincter muscles which control the bowel.
A 3rd degree tear will always damage the external anal sphincter, and sometimes extend to the internal anal sphincter muscles. A 4th degree tear will additionally damage the lining of the anal canal.
These injuries require immediate diagnosis and prompt, skilled repair. Such repair should take place in an operating theatre, using the appropriate techniques and materials.
A failure to diagnose and repair these severe tears can mean that the woman affected may develop shocking symptoms which can become permanent.
The impact of severe tears
An unrepaired severe perineal tear can cause the following life-changing symptoms:
- Inability to control the passing of wind
- Extreme urgency when needing the toilet
- Inability to control the passing of faeces
- Leakage of wind and faeces via the vagina if a fistula develops
What is a fistula?
A fistula is a hole between the bowel and the vagina which can sometime develop when the lining of the anal canal is damaged. This hole or passage, allows wind and faeces (or poo) to travel from the bowel into vagina and exit the body inappropriately.
The vaginal birth of a child obviously requires the body to behave in ways that it would not normally do and perineal tears can occur. It is not always possible to prevent the, especially if you are giving birth to your first child or a large baby.
When these injuries are not repaired, however, the relevant medical professionals may be considered to have behaved negligently and it may be appropriate to make a claim for compensation.
Speak to a solicitor
Contact us if you are suffering with the awful symptoms of an unrepaired severe perineal tear. We have supported numerous successful compensation claims relating to undiagnosed perineal tears, and would be happy to advise you.
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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.