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Childbirth: A Common Cause of Anal Incontinence

Childbirth: A Common Cause of Anal Incontinence

Not many people associate giving birth with developing anal incontinence. It seems unlikely that there can be a connection. However, there is a significant risk of just such an outcome, especially when giving birth vaginally for the first time.

Anal sphincter injuries

When a woman gives birth via the vagina, the skin and muscles around the vagina need to stretch. In some circumstances, the damage can be so extensive as to travel from the vagina, across the perineum to the anus. It can even travel to the interior of the anus, damaging the internal sphincter muscle and, possibly, the lining of the anal canal.

These are the muscles which control the opening and closing of the bowel and, if the muscles are damaged, they cannot do their job properly or at all.

Symptoms of severe perineal tears

This can leave the woman with a range of extremely distressing symptoms:

  • Extreme urgency when needing the toilet
  • Inability to control the passing of wind
  • Inability to control the passing of faeces (poo)
  • Leakage of wind and faeces from the vagina
  • Infections of the perineum

Management of anal sphincter injuries

If treated properly, the woman can make a full recovery. However, for the best chance of this happening, it is absolutely vital that the woman's injury is accurately and promptly diagnosed shortly after the birth.

Where a severe tear (a third of fourth degree tear) has occurred, a surgical repair by an experienced surgeon in an operating theatre is necessary as quickly as possible. A delay in diagnosis and surgery can mean a reduced chance of recovery of bowel control.

Failure to diagnose

Problems develop when no diagnosis is made. If the woman does not undergo a thorough examination after childbirth, it is possible that signs of damage are missed and her anal function starts to deteriorate.

If an anal sphincter injury is misdiagnosed, the woman is less likely to receive an appropriate and effective repair, and her symptoms will worsen.

Medical negligence

If you are suffering the on-going symptoms of a severe anal sphincter injury due to a failure to diagnose and repair, you may been the victim of medical negligence.

Contact us today to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor about the possibility of making a claim for compensation.

Please call us on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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