When Does A Vaginal Tear Amount To Medical Negligence?
If you have experienced a vaginal tear during childbirth, when does this vaginal tear amount to negligence by a medical professional? If you attend hospital to give birth to your child, you trust the professionals looking after you to do the best they can for you and your unborn child. Unfortunatley, however, there are occasions where they fail to meet the standards expected of them. In some cases this is through no fault of their own, however, on other occasions action could or should have been taken to prevent the tear, and on these occasions this can lead to a medical negligence claim.
This aricle explores the complications of a vaginal tear and when it can lead to a medical negligence claim .
What Is A Vaginal Tear?
A vaginal tear can occur quite naturally during birth. The size of the baby may cause the mother to tear. If a first or second degree tear occurs, this does not normally cause any longterm injuries to the mother. However, third or fourth degree tears can cause significant problems.
- A first degree vaginal tear is very superficial and may involve multiple superficial lacerations
- A second degree vaginal tear is deeper and may involve a tear to the perineal body or superficial perineal muscles
- A third degree vaginal tear involves the vaginal tissue, perineal skin, and perineal muscles that extend into the anal sphincter
- A fourth degree vaginal tear goes through the anal tissue
When Can A Vaginal Tear Amount To Medical Negligence?
There are several problems that can lead to a claim for medical negligence, including:
- Failure to carry out an episiotomy in some circumstances
- Failure to identify and correctly repair an anal sphincter injury
One of the key issues that can lead to a medical negligence claim when vaginal tears occur, is whether an episiotomy, which is a cut carried out by the medical team, should have been made during labour which would have avoided the natural tear. The reason for this is that an episiotomy is a controlled cut and the medical staff determine when and where that takes place, whereas a natural tear can tear towards the anus which can cause Anal Sphincter Injury (see below).
Anal Sphincter Injury
If the vaginal tear has been severe, it can cause the anal sphincter to rupture. The sphincter has three different layers, and if the medical team fail to realise that the rupture has damaged more than the outer layer and only repair that layer, leaving the internal ones ruptured without repairing them, this can lead to temporary or even permanent incontinence and longterm problems including pain.
Evidence has shown that if the tear is recognised and repaired shortly after birth then the majority of women will make a full recovery, whereas if it is not initially picked up at labour/not properly repaired less than half will make a full recovery.
If the medical team fail to spot the extent of the injury immediately after childbirth this can lead to a claim for medical negligence.
What Action Can You Take If You Had A Vaginal Tear
If you had a vaginal tear at the time of birth and have had incontinence problems since the birth you should seek urgent medical and legal assistance. The sooner that the rupture can be diagnosed the more chance you will have of making a complete recovery. Taking early legal advice will allow your legal adviser to obtain evidence to support your claim whilst it is still available.
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