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Six-figure sum of compensation for perineal injury during forceps delivery

A client has settled her medical negligence claim after a traumatic delivery

Mother and child

17 May 2019

A young mother, known only as D to protect her identity, has settled her medical negligence claim against a hospital trust after she suffered perineal injury following a forceps assisted delivery of her first child 

D instructed experienced birth injury lawyer Sally-Jean Nicholes to represent her in her legal action. 

The care and treatment that D received during labour was criticised but the negligence arose following the traumatic delivery.  The obstetrician failed to carry out an episiotomy help with delivery which caused damage to D’s vagina and she suffered a perineal tear.  

A perineal tear is not uncommon during delivery, but in this case the tear was mis-diagnosed and repaired as a superficial tear.  The repair then broke down. The tear damaged the anal sphincter muscles, causing D to experience bowel incontinence, and because of the traumatic delivery, her pudendal nerve was damaged causing urinary incontinence.

D was too deeply traumatised by the events during the birth and by her symptoms to speak about them at first.  She underwent a superficial gynaecological repair to her vagina but this did not deal with her bowel symptoms.  She had to leave the job she loved, her relationship with her child’s father broke down, and she became very isolated.  When she first contacted Sally-Jean she was very unsure whether she had the stamina to be able to bring a claim against the trust.

Sally-Jean obtained expert evidence from an obstetrician and colorectal surgeon who supported D’s claim for the physical injuries she sustained.  Sally-Jean also obtained a report from a psychiatrist who advised that D had suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Court proceedings were issued but the defendant trust did not admit liability.  The claim was settled for a six-figure sum at a settlement meeting only days before the trial was due to take place.  

Leigh Day medical negligence solicitor Sally Jean Nicholes said “The effect of perineal injury on women can be very profound. My client was not unusual in that she suffered dreadful symptoms, she was frightened and became very isolated. She had been traumatised to such a degree that she was unable to speak in any detail about her symptoms to the health care professionals that should have been able to help her including health visitors, midwives, GPs, obstetricians or colorectal surgeons. 

“The colorectal surgeon I instructed to advise about the claim took time with her, he gained her trust and explained exactly what had happened to her body and why she suffered the symptoms. Very gradually she became able to start a treatment that has helped manage her physical symptoms.

“As a result of working on cases like this, the medical negligence department at Leigh Day helped in setting up the charity, MASIC, and the firm has continued to support the work of that charity so that women who have suffered birth injury causing such symptoms can get support,  and not suffer in silence, feeling as though they are alone.  The charity also works towards educating the healthcare professionals about the condition and the effects of it so that mothers are more likely to get the help they need.”

D wrote: “I cannot praise Sally-Jean Nicholes and all those that worked on the case enough. They are the reason I was able to put my life back together and move forward with hope for my future. Sally-Jean was amazing throughout what was a very difficult process for me. Her kindness and understanding was the main reason I kept going.” 

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