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Clinical negligence expert praises women speaking out about childbirth injuries

Leading birth injury lawyer welcomes the bravery of two women who have spoken out about the issue of perineal tears

Pregnant woman

4 October 2016

A leading birth injury lawyer has welcomed the bravery of two women who have spoken out about the issue of perineal tears on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire show. The programme featured the two mothers who had suffered third and fourth-degree tears after giving birth which had left them with lifelong symptoms.
Women who have suffered from traumatic perineal tears are generally reluctant to speak about their symptoms because incontinence remains a very difficult issue for people to discuss and, tragically, all too frequently they feel humiliated and ashamed.  Symptoms can include severe pain, urinary and anal incontinence, urgency and agonisingly painful sexual intercourse.  For some women these symptoms can last for years and cause them great misery, pain, and for some, psychological damage. Some are unable to return to work. Many feel trapped in their own homes and thus isolated.
One of the women who spoke to the Victoria Derbyshire show was left without sensation in her bladder and nerve damage after suffering a third-degree tear. She told the show that doctors said the pain was to be expected; she felt no one believed her suffering.
Another woman spoke about her experience following a fourth-degree tear. She eventually had to be fitted with a colostomy bag and said that the after effects of the injury had a huge impact on her life, including anxiety about leaving her house.
Sally-Jean Nicholes, from the clinical negligence team at law firm Leigh Day, said: “In my experience of acting in cases for women with severe perineal tears, these injuries cause serious and life-changing complications but it is an issue that many feel too embarrassed to talk about.  As a result many are desperately isolated and without the support that they and their partners need in order to be able cope with and manage their symptoms.  These women are incredibly brave in describing their experiences; importantly in doing so they are telling the many other women who suffer in silence that they are not alone.”
New techniques are being developed by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives in a new project, the first of its kind, which hopes to reduce the risk of a serious tear by preventing the weakest point of the perineum from being damaged in delivery.
Sally continued “We welcome the steps put forward by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives to educate the health care professionals with whom these women come into contact; anything which reduces the dreadful symptoms which blight the lives of those women who suffer from these types of injury must be a step in the right direction.”

The MASIC Foundation (Mothers with Anal Sphincter Injuries in Childbirth) are organising an open national meeting at the Royal Society of Medicine in London on 22nd March 2017 to which the public are welcome.  Further details will be available shortly.

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