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Perineal tear injury and faecal incontinence claims

Perineal or vaginal tears can occur naturally, as a consequence of childbirth. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists estimates that over 85% of women who have a vaginal birth will suffer some degree of perineal trauma and of these 60-70% will need stitching.  

Third and fourth degree tears

According to the RCOG’s patient leaflet on third or fourth degree tears during childbirth published in 2015, some 3% of deliveries result in a severe tear. The figure is closer to 6% in first time mothers, many of whom are unaware that they are at risk of tearing when they give birth
 
Other women at risk of a third or fourth degree tear include: 
 
  • women of South Asian origin, 
  • women whose second stage of labour is longer than expected, for example if the woman has been pushing for longer than recommended,
  • women who need a forceps or ventouse delivery, 
  • deliveries involving shoulder dystocia, 
  • women who have large babies, 
  • women who have had third or fourth degree tears before.
 
Women who have suffered from perineal injury are often reluctant to discuss their symptoms, believing that vaginal injury is a necessary part of having a baby. Some women develop fistulas requiring prolonged medical and surgical treatment.
 
Many can be left with devastating physical and psychological problems which mean they have to give up their work, and are unable to leave their homes with any confidence. Their life style and their relationships with their families and friends can be affected.  
 
Symptoms can include severe pain, incontinence of flatus (wind) and solid stool and agonisingly painful sexual intercourse.  These symptoms can last for years, and for some women, are permanent.
 
It is vital for women's future well-being that they receive proper advice about the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth. It is important that steps are taken to prevent tears from occurring, and that when injuries do happen in childbirth they are correctly identified and repaired immediately..
 

"Too many women suffer the misery of faecal incontinence and/or urgency after their babies are born. This is not always because of negligent care – but sometimes it can be. " Claire Fazan, clinical negligence partner

If you have suffered severe perineal trauma during childbirth you may be able to bring a medical negligence claim for compensation if your injury was missed, or if it was incorrectly diagnosed and treated.  
 
Not all tears will lead to a successful claim for compensation. Where negligence can be proved, our clinical negligence team is superbly placed to represent clients who have suffered 3rd and 4th degree tears. Our lawyers are recognised as obstetric litigation experts in the leading legal directories. Our lawyers are consistently praised for their sensitive commitment to their clients.

Successful perineal tear claims

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