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Disabling Symptoms of Sphincter Dysfunction

Disabling Symptoms of Sphincter Dysfunction

As a consequence of injuries suffered during childbirth, a woman can suffer significant and disabling symptoms of sphincter dysfunction.

For example, there can be a mixed picture of incontinence, with urgency, passive seepage and difficulty in evacuation.

Sadly such problems can arise after any vaginal delivery, but problems are much more common amongst those who suffer a severe perineal tear. More specifically, problems are more common amongst those whose 3rd or 4th degree tear is not properly diagnosed and/or repaired.

Will I respond to treatment?

There may be a positive response to conservative treatment, meaning non-surgical treatment. If not, the patient may be a candidate for a secondary surgical repair, although only 40% report satisfactory continence five years after the operation.

Therefore treatment may lead to some improvement in symptoms, but several different modes of treatment may have to be trialled first.

What if I do not respond to treatment?

If a patient does not respond to treatment, their symptoms are unlikely to improve.

Furthermore, most will find that their condition actually deteriorates with age, particularly due to the effects of the menopause (when muscles lose their elasticity). Some will have such severe dysfunction that a permanent colostomy is required.

What does the future hold?

In light of these injuries, any future deliveries should be by elective Caesarean section. Otherwise the patient runs the risk of exacerbating the impact of the tear. It is worth noting here that women can have another vaginal birth after having a 3rd degree tear, but only if a complete recovery has been made.

The impact of a missed 3rd degree tear can be devastating. Unfortunately unless an improvement in the patient's symptoms can be achieved, her problems in relation to her work, domestic and social life will not improve significantly in the future.

Why have I suffered these complications?

If you are experiencing disabling symptoms of sphincter dysfunction after giving birth, you will want to know why this has happened to you. This is understandable, as the joy of giving birth to a child will be overshadowed by the trauma and anxiety caused by your current condition.

In some cases, medical error is directly to blame. This is the case if your 3rd or 4th degree tear was not initially diagnosed, was not repaired, or was repaired to a poor standard. If this has happened to you, you have been the victim of medical negligence and you are entitled to pursue legal action.

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