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Anal Sphincter Damage After Birth

During childbirth it is possible for the anal sphincter to suffer a degree of damage. If so, it is very important the injury is recognised and repaired at the time, as this will ensure the best chance of recovery. If the damage goes unnoticed, a woman will develop bowel related complications. These could last for the long-term, as a secondary repair rarely produces favourable results.

The benefit of a primary repair

Around 85% of women will sustain a perineal tear during a vaginal delivery. Of these, a small number will suffer a third or fourth degree tear. These injuries extend to the anus and must be repaired in theatre by a qualified surgeon.

It is vital that an anal sphincter repair is carried out soon after the birth. This is known as a primary repair and ensures a woman has the best chance of making a full recovery. She may experience a few complications to begin with, especially with regard to faecal incontinence. However, as long as a competent repair is performed, it is likely a woman will regain normal function.

What if your sphincter injury was missed?

It seems unlikely that an anal sphincter injury could be missed, especially as it is now routine practice to perform a thorough vaginal and rectal examination after a vaginal birth. Nevertheless, there are occasions when medical professionals fail to notice a third or fourth degree tear either because an examination was not carried out, or an examination was not performed competently.

If a sphincter injury is not detected at the time of the delivery, a woman will soon develop problems. This is likely to include faecal urgency and incontinence. Any woman who has recently given birth and who is experiencing such issues should undergo further medical investigation. If a third or fourth degree tear is subsequently diagnosed, an appropriate course of treatment should be devised to help a woman cope with her symptoms.

However, it is widely accepted that repairs carried out some time after the delivery (known as secondary repairs) are unlikely to produce any notable improvement. This means that a woman will have to live with her complications in the long-term. This can have a devastating effect, often hindering a woman's ability to work, have sex, socialise and carry out day to day activities.

Speak to a solicitor today

If your anal sphincter injury was missed after the delivery of your child, causing you to suffer complications, you need to speak to a solicitor. This is because in failing to diagnose a birth injury, medical professionals will have provided a substandard level of care. You will therefore be considered the victim of medical negligence, meaning you will be entitled to compensation for the harm you have wrongfully endured.

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