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Settlement following negligent episiotomy

A woman has received compensation after being injured during the birth of her child

Posted on 09 October 2014

A 43 year old woman has secured compensation from Taunton & Somerset NHS Foundation Trust after she was left incontinent following injuries she sustained during the birth of her first child at Musgrove Hospital in Taunton.

The woman, known as Mrs C, was admitted to Musgrove Hospital when she went into labour. Following a prolonged labour and a suspicious CTG trace, the obstetric team decided to perform an instrumental delivery using a ventouse. 

As part of the delivery the obstetrician performed an episiotomy, a surgical cut made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth, to aid delivery.  As a result of the assisted delivery Mrs C suffered a third degree tear to the perineum, which had to be surgically repaired.

Mrs C suffered pain for several months following the delivery and then some years later she began to notice that she was having difficulty controlling the muscles in her rectum.  She became incontinent of wind and had faecal urge incontinence, which meant that she had very little time to get to a toilet after first realising she needed to open her bowels. 

She was extremely embarrassed by the symptoms which affected her social and sex life. She stopped seeing friends and would only go out to places where she knew she could get to the toilet quickly.  She could not even bring herself to tell her husband about her problems for quite some time.

Finally, Mrs C saw a colorectal surgeon who informed her that she had suffered damage to her external anal sphincter following the birth of her child and this was the cause of her symptoms. To try and help with her symptoms Mrs C has had a sacral nerve implant inserted in to her back.

However, this has not alleviated all her symptoms and she has been left with wind incontinence, which will remain for the rest of her life.  In addition, the implant itself is uncomfortable, has left her with scarring and will require her to undergo future surgery to keep it functioning.

Lawyers at Leigh Day solicitors were able to secure compensation for Mrs C as a result of her injuries. Nicola Wainwright and Suleikha Ali, lawyers in the clinical negligence team at Leigh Day, pursued a claim on Mrs C's behalf in respect of the failure by the obstetric team to appropriately manage Mrs C’s delivery. 

Leigh Day obtained expert evidence from an Obstetrician and a Colorectal Surgeon who advised that the obstetrician who performed Mrs C’s instrumental delivery had negligently performed the episiotomy in the wrong direction. 

Instead, of angling away from her anus, he cut directly towards it leading to damage to her anal sphincter. The experts advised that if Mrs C’s delivery had been managed appropriately she would have avoided her symptoms of incontinence.

Approximately one month before the trial of Mrs C’s claim was due to take place a five-figure sum of compensation was secured for Mrs C. The compensation reimbursed Mrs C for expenses she had already incurred as a result of her injuries and ensured that she could pay for future medical treatment to control her symptoms as much as possible.

Nicola Wainwright a partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, who represented Mrs C, said

 “The effect on Mrs C of her symptoms of incontinence should not be underestimated. Like many women, she found them debilitating not only because they affected her relationships and daily routine but because she was so embarrassed by them. She found the courage to tell her husband and ultimately her friends, which also enabled her to seek help.

“I am pleased that we were able to secure compensation for her so that she has the security of knowing that she can afford the expenses she will incur because of her symptoms, which our experts told us she would have not have incurred if it were not for the way in which her episiotomy was carried out. In particular, Mrs C will be able to cover the costs associated with the sacral nerve implant, which helps to relieve some of her symptoms”.