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3rd Degree Tears Explained

3rd Degree Tears Explained

In this article we explain everything you need to know about 3rd degree tears. If you would like any further legal advice about claiming for a 3rd degree tear, simply get in touch with our team at Glynns Solicitors.

What is a 3rd degree tear?

A 3rd degree tear is when the perineum and anal sphincter rip during the vaginal delivery of a baby. A 3rd degree tear happens because the vaginal opening cannot stretch wide enough to accommodate the baby's head and shoulders. Instead the perineum rips, and in some cases this tear extends all the way down into the anal sphincter.

Who gets a 3rd degree tear?

Anyone who has a baby via a vaginal delivery (as opposed to a C-section) can get a 3rd degree tear. It will not happen to everyone. Experts suggest that around 3% of women will have a 3rd or 4th degree tear. A 4th degree tear is like a 3rd degree tear, but the injury extends deeper into the anal sphincter.

A 3rd degree tear is more common in women giving birth vaginally for the first time. Around 6 in 100 women giving birth vaginally for the first time will have a 3rd or 4th degree tear, compared to 2 in 100 women who have previously have a vaginal birth.

A 3rd degree tear is also more likely to occur if: the baby is very large, an assisted delivery is needed, or there is a long second stage of labour.

Can a 3rd degree tear be prevented?

A 3rd degree cannot be prevented. This is largely because a 3rd degree tear cannot be predicted, as you cannot know how the labour is going to proceed at the outset. Factors that often contribute towards a 3rd degree tear such as a forceps delivery cannot be avoided.

How is a 3rd degree tear repaired?

A 3rd degree tear is repaired in theatre with dissolvable stitches. The repair must be done by an appropriately trained doctor (not a midwife).

How long does it take to recover from a 3rd degree tear?

Everyone heals at different speeds. Physiotherapy can significantly help the healing process, as can good wound management (for example, keeping the wound clean). It can take several months before sexual relations can be resumed. For some women it will take up to a year before they feel recovered.

Can there be lasting damage from a 3rd degree tear?

If a 3rd degree tear is recognised and repaired shortly after the birth, there is a good chance that a full recovery will be made. Around 60% to 80% of women will be free of symptoms after one year.

Sadly some do suffer lasting damage. These women will find they are unable to control the passing of wind and faeces properly. This can result in the need to rush to the toilet. These complications are more common in patients whose 3rd degree tear was not recognised and repaired after the birth.

Why do 3rd degree tear claims happen?

A 3rd degree tear that is not recognised and repaired within 24 hours of the birth will amount to medical negligence. Most 3rd degree tear claims arise for this reason. A claim may also be brought if the repair was of a poor standard, or the birth was negligently managed (resulting in a 3rd degree tear). If you would like more information on this, please get in touch with us at Glynns Solicitors.

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