Perineal Tears: Can I Make a Claim?

Even during successful deliveries, the mother can sustain injuries which may have a significant effect on her quality of life.  

Risk Factors

There is no way to know in advance whether a patient will tear, but there are a number of risk factors which allow an assessment to be made determining how likely a tear might be:

  • Induced labour
  • Epidural
  • A baby weighing over 4kg
  • A long second stage
  • Any foetal position where the back of the baby’s head is against the mother’s back
  • Shoulder dystocia (where the baby’s shoulder becomes trapped above the mother’s pelvis)
  • A midline episiotomy
  • The use of forceps during delivery

  Perineal tears aren’t always problematic, and the majority of cases are resolved within a year.

The Severity of the Tear

There are four grades of perineal tear, with the fourth grade being the most severe.  Each case is categorised according to its severity.  The procedure that the midwife or obstetrician follows for repairing the tear depends on its grade. In a grade 4 tear, the damage extends to the anal canal and possibly also the rectum.  Women who suffer a 4th Grade perineal tear face nearly double the risk of developing post-partum faecal incontinence compared to women with only a 3rd grade tear. Whenever a tear occurs during childbirth, it must be assessed by a medical professional and given a grade.

Fourth Degree Tears

Lesser grades of tear may be repaired by a midwife and may be carried out in the delivery room.  However, third and fourth degree tears must always be carried out by an experienced and appropriately trained obstetrician. If perineal tears are effectively diagnosed and repaired, most patients should recover within twelve months.  Each stage of assessment and repair must be meticulously documented by medial staff:

  • The repair should be carried out in a theatre by an experienced obstetrician
  • The appropriate kind of sutures must be used based on the nature of the tear
  • The patient should be prescribed a course of antibiotics and a laxative
  • 6 weeks after the birth, the patient should see the obstetrician or gynaecologist for a review

  If you were diagnosed with a 3rd or 4th-degree perineal tear, and your treatment was not carried out as described above and if you still have symptoms relating to your tear then you may be able to claim compensation.

How to Make a Claim

Not all complications associated with perineal tears are the result of medical negligence.  However, in extreme cases, some women suffering from severe perineal tears may experience a total breakdown of their perineum leading to urinary and faecal incontinence and may even necessitate the patient having a colostomy. Where ongoing problems are the result of medical negligence, the patient is entitled to make a claim for compensation.  However, there is a strict statute of limitations, so it is crucial to seek legal advice as soon as possible. To learn more about how Cute Injury can help you, get in touch...

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