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3rd Degree Tear Questions and Answers

3rd Degree Tear Questions and Answers

Below we provide the answers to some frequently asked questions about 3rd degree tears.

If there is anything else you would like to know about 3rd degree tears and medical compensation claims, please get in touch with us at Glynns Solicitors. We specialise in perineal tear claims and can help you understand whether your injury was negligently managed.

What is a 3rd degree tear?

A 3rd degree tear is when the perineum and part of the anal sphincter rip during childbirth. There are four different types of perineal tear, with the most minor being a 1st degree tear and the worst being a 4th degree tear.

How often do 3rd degree tears happen?

Perineal tears only affect women giving birth vaginally or 'naturally'. Not everyone having a vaginal birth will suffer a 3rd degree tear. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists estimate that 90% of women will experience some form of tear. Only around 9% will sustain a tear that constitutes a 3rd or 4th degree tear.

Why did I have a 3rd degree tear? Could it have been avoided?

There are some factors that increase the risk of a 3rd degree tear, but despite this a 3rd degree tear cannot be predicted. Furthermore it cannot be avoided in most cases, as it is a natural part of childbirth. Common factors that increase the chance of a 3rd degree tear include: first time vaginal birth, large baby, assisted delivery, epidural and long second stage of labour.

What will happen after a 3rd degree tear?

After a vaginal birth, the patient should have her vagina and rectum examined. During this examination, the medical practitioner should identify whether any perineal tears are present. If so, the patient should be sent to theatre for a surgical repair.

Afterwards she should be given antibiotics to prevent infection, and laxatives to soften the passing of stools. Normally the patient will be discharged once she has had her bowels open. The patient will then be referred for physiotherapy and asked to attend a six-week follow-up appointment.

Will I recover from a 3rd degree tear?

Most women will make a full recovery from a 3rd degree tear. There are things you can do to assist a recovery, including pelvic floor exercises, good hygiene and drinking lots of water. The stitches will gradually dissolve and before long normal function should be regained. Unfortunately some women will experience long-term problems such as weakness and incontinence.

Will I be able to have another vaginal birth?

If you have made a complete recovery, you will be able to have another vaginal birth with any future children.

What should I do if my 3rd degree tear doesn't heal?

But if your 3rd degree tear does not heal, you should not hesitate to seek medical advice. It may be that there is an underlying problem that needs treatment, such as an infection or fistula. It is not 'normal' to develop faecal incontinence after giving birth, so if this is affecting you, it is important to go to a doctor. It may even be that the repair was not done properly, or that your tear is more severe than medical practitioners realised.

If a medical mistake has caused you additional pain and suffering, you may also want to talk to a lawyer about claiming compensation. Poor repairs, missed tears and under-diagnosed tears all amount to a breach of duty, meaning you could be the victim of medical negligence. Contact us to find out more.

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