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Retained Vaginal Swabs

Retained Vaginal Swabs

More often than not, a retained vaginal swab is the direct result of medical negligence. This article explores how medical professionals might fail to remove a swab, what complications could ensue, and what action a victim of a retained vaginal swab can take.

Why Might Vaginal Swabs Be Retained?

Throughout the course of a vaginal birth, swabs are used for cleansing and to absorb blood and other fluids. They may be needed during the birth itself, as well as afterwards during perineal suturing.

To ensure swabs are not left inside the body, all NHS organisations must have written procedures which must be strictly adhered to. This will include counting and recording the number of swabs before they are used, and then recounting them at the end.

Nevertheless, despite these guidelines, swabs continue to be retained within the vagina. This often happens because during birth and perineal suturing, swabs can become soaked in blood, making them difficult to identify. If this happens and a swab count is not correctly performed, it is highly possible a woman will be left with a swab inside her. This is known as a 'retained swab'.

Complications Of Retained Vaginal Swabs

If a swab is not removed from the vagina, a woman will soon begin to feel something is wrong, often noting a degree of discomfort and pain. However, these symptoms can often be disregarded, instead being attributed to the trauma of having a vaginal birth. Nevertheless, if the pain persists and other symptoms develop (such as an offensive smell, unusual discharge and recurrent infection) then a woman should be alerted to the possibility of a retained swab.

If a retained vaginal swab is suspected, medical assistance must be sought immediately. Should there be a delay in identifying and removing a retained swab for any reason, a woman will be put at risk of developing a number of serious complications, including:-

  • Pyrexia;
  • Infection;
  • Pain;
  • Post-partum haemorrhage;
  • Psychological damage.

Retained Vaginal Swabs and Medical Negligence Claims

There are strict guidelines throughout NHS organisations in relation to swab counts, meaning retained vaginal swabs should never happen. Unfortunately, however, there are cases every year in the UK of women being left with swabs inside their vagina. This can lead to additional health problems, ranging from minor afflictions to life-threatening complications.

If your well-being has been affected by a retained vaginal swab, you may have been the victim of medical negligence. A solicitor specialising in this area of the law will be able to provide more information. However, if it is found that you received a substandard level of care, you will be able to make a medical negligence claim. If successful, you will be awarded compensation for the pain and suffering caused to you and your loved ones.

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Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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