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Retained Swab During Vaginal Birth

Retained Swab During Vaginal Birth

While in the majority of cases maternity staff provide the highest level of care, there are unfortunately times when mistakes are made. Once such event is when there is a failure to account for all the swabs used during a vaginal delivery and a woman is left with a foreign object inside her body something which can lead to serious complications.

How Can A Swab Be Retained After Birth?

During a vaginal birth swabs may be used by medical staff both as a cleansing tool, and as a way to absorb blood and other fluids. All swabs should be counted before they are used, and then counted again afterwards to ensure all are present. This process should be adhered to during all surgical procedures, as it prevents swabs from being left inside the body.

Therefore all maternity services should have strict written guidelines for medical staff to follow regarding the use of swabs. This includes practices for swab counts, documenting swab counts and the provision of adequate education. Even so, there are occasions in which swabs are retained within the vagina. This often happens because swabs become difficult to identify, either because they have been soaked in fluids or they get lost after a vaginal tear.

In the event that a swab is not accounted for at the time of delivery, it is vital it is found as soon as possible particularly before any perineal suturing is performed. That is why all women who have had a vaginal birth must undergo a genital examination soon after the delivery, as any complications (such as retained swabs or tears) can be quickly detected. However, if it still remains undiscovered then a woman will be left with a foreign object within her body, something which can have very serious consequences.

Complications Caused By A Retained Swab

If a swab is retained after a vaginal birth, a woman will soon begin to suffer symptoms such as discomfort, a distended abdomen and a smelly discharge. Medical assistance should be sought immediately, as if left undiagnosed a retained swab could lead to serious complications such as:-

  • Fever;
  • Infection;
  • Pain;
  • Haemorrhage;
  • Psychological problems.

Retained Swabs and Medical Negligence

After a report in 2010 found 99 incidents of retained vaginal swabs in a two-year period, the National Safety Patient Agency issued strict guidelines to reduce the risk of such an event. Thus there are instructions in place for all maternity staff to follow to effectively prevent a retained vaginal swab from even happening.

Therefore if you have suffered a retained swab after having given birth vaginally, it is likely you have been the victim of a sub-standard level of care. If this has happened to you, contact a medical negligence solicitor to discuss your options. Should it be found that the care you received during the birth fell below an acceptable standard, you may want to make a claim. If successful, you will be awarded compensation to cover the pain and suffering you have experienced, as well as a sum to cover general damages (such as loss of earnings or additional medical treatment).

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