It is not uncommon for a woman to experience a tear to the perineum during vaginal childbirth but some women are more susceptible to this injury than others.
What is a birth tear?
A birth tear is an injury to the area around the vagina when a woman is giving birth. As the baby emerges, the skin and muscle have to stretch and this can cause a tear.
Approximately 90% of women are thought to suffer a tear of some degree during childbirth.
What is a severe perineal tear?
Not all women suffer a tear during childbirth and, of those who do, most will only experience a small tear affecting the skin and muscle between the vagina and anus. This area is called the perineum and tears which only injure this region are classified as first and second degree tears.
A severe perineal tear is classified as a third or fourth degree tear and, in addition to injuring the perineum, will cause the woman’s anal sphincter to tear. A fourth degree tear is the most severe form of injury, including damage to the internal anal lining as well as the anal sphincter muscles.
Who’s at risk of a severe tear?
Research has shown that some women are more likely to suffer a perineal tear than others.
- Women who are giving birth to a large baby are more likely to suffer a severe injury to the perineum during childbirth
- Women who are giving birth vaginally for the first time are also at greater risk of a tear
- Women over the age of 25 seem to be more likely to suffer a severe tear than those under twenty-five
- Women of Asian ethnicity seem more vulnerable to severe tearing than other ethnicities
- Women who experience a long second stage of labour may be more likely to suffer a perineal tear.
- Women who require an assisted delivery – i.e. when the obstetrician needs to use a ventouse or forceps to help the baby to be born – are more likely to suffer a severe tear.
It has also been suggested that some birthing positions are more likely to result in a severe tear than others. A squatting position for childbirth may be more likely to cause a tear whereas an upright position or lying on the side may produce fewer severe tears.
Diagnosing Severe Tears
It is vital that a severe tear is diagnosed and repaired as soon after the birth as possible. All women should undergo a thorough examination to check for any signs of injury but those who come into the above categories should definitely receive close attention as there is a greater chance that they have suffered a severe tear.
Failure to examine and failure to diagnose a severe tear accurately may be regarded as medical negligence.
Speak to a solicitor
If you have been left with the appalling long-term symptoms of a severe perineal tear due to a failure to diagnose or a misdiagnosis, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.
Contact us to discuss your situation with a specialist medical negligence solicitor with experience of supporting claims for severe obstetric tears.
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.