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Are Perineal Tears Increasing?

Are Perineal Tears Increasing?

Is the incident rate of perineal tears increasing in the UK? Or are doctors just getting better at diagnosing them?

Perineal tears

A perineal tear is when the perineum is lacerated during a vaginal delivery. The extent of the tear can vary dramatically, which is why there is a grading system ranging from a 1st degree tear (minor) to a 4th degree tear (severe). The worst tears meaning a 3rd or 4th degree tear also involve the anal sphincter complex. These muscles help us to control the passing of wind and faeces.

Incidence rate of perineal tears

Medical literature suggests that the number of perineal tears that occur in the UK every year is increasing. One report published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) says that the rate of severe perineal tears in first-time mothers rose from 1.8% in 2000 to 5.9% in 2011. This is quite a significant increase, but why exactly are more perineal tears happening?

Why is the number rising?

The same reports offers two explanations for the increase. Firstly, that more women are choosing to give birth later in life. Age has a direct impact upon the risk of perineal tears. This is because as we age, our muscles become less elastic, making it more likely that the perineum will tear.

Secondly, medical practitioners are getting much better at diagnosing perineal tears. This means that previous statistics may be inaccurate, as perineal tears were occurring but they were being missed and therefore were not reported.

Better recognition of perineal tears

The fact that medical practitioners are better at detecting perineal tears than they were formerly is very good news. The patient's outcome is closely linked to the amount of time it takes to diagnose and repair the tear. If a tear is repaired to a reasonable standard within 24 hours of the birth, the patient is likely to make a good recovery.

However, if there is a delay in identifying the perineal tear, the repair will also be delayed. This can negatively impact upon the patient's health, as the tissues will not join back together quite as easily. Consequently there may be a loss of function, making it difficult to control the passing of wind and faeces.

My tears was not detected

If you have a 3rd or 4th degree tear that was not initially detected by medical practitioners, you could be the victim of medical negligence. This would make you eligible to pursue a claim for compensation. Contact us for more information.

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