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3rd Degree Tears  Why Did I Tear?

3rd Degree Tears Why Did I Tear?

If you sustained a 3rd degree tear while giving birth, you will want to know why you teared and whether anything could have been done to prevent it.

Why did I tear when giving birth?

Perineal tears are a common part of childbirth, and around 90% of women having a vaginal delivery will suffer some sort of tear. A much smaller percentage around 9% - will have a 3rd or 4th degree tear.

Tears happen because the vaginal opening cannot stretch far enough when the baby is being delivered. The perineum and surrounding tissue is very elastic and can stretch a considerable amount during childbirth. But sometimes it is not quite enough and the tissue will rip during the delivery.

There are some things that will increase the chance of a 3rd degree tear, including:

  • Induction of labour
  • Epidural
  • First time vaginal delivery
  • Larger than average baby
  • Assisted delivery forceps or ventouse
  • Obesity
  • Shoulder dystocia where the baby's shoulder gets stuck behind the mother's pubic bone
  • Long second stage of labour

However, sometimes there will be no clear reason for a 3rd degree tear. The patient may not have any of the aforementioned risk factors and will still tear.

Could my tear have been prevented?

Generally a 3rd degree tear cannot be prevented. Although a birth plan is made in advance, no one can tell what will happen during labour.

There are some risk factors that cannot be helped such as a first time vaginal delivery and having to be induced. And there are some risk factors that cannot be predicted such as shoulder dystocia, forceps delivery and needing an epidural.

It is often possible to tell when a larger than average baby will be born, as it can become apparent during the final scans. Even so, a baby needs to weigh more than 10lbs before an elective C-section should be considered.

The only way to try to avoid a 3rd degree tear is with a well-managed labour. If each stage of labour is the correct length (not too short/not too long) then it will help to reduce the risk of a tear.

Of course it is not possible to make each stage of labour the perfect length, but if a patient is labouring for too long a C-section might be required. On the other hand, a patient should not be encouraged to push too soon, as the perineum will not have stretched enough.

3rd degree tear claims

You may therefore be wondering why so many 3rd degree tears lead to successful compensation claims. These claims usually arise because medical practitioners have failed to diagnose and repair a 3rd degree tear, resulting in faecal incontinence. If this has happened to you, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for legal advice.

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