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Faecal Incontinence from a Vaginal Delivery

Faecal Incontinence from a Vaginal Delivery

Some women will develop faecal incontinence after giving birth by way of vaginal delivery. This is more common in women who sustain a 3rd or 4th degree tear during the birth.

Faecal incontinence

Faecal incontinence means that someone is unable to control the passing of faeces (poo).

In healthy individuals, the anal muscles are strong enough to prevent the passing of faeces until a convenient time. However, if the anal muscles have been weakened, this control will be adversely affected. Consequently the individual will have faecal urgency, where it is difficult to defer defecation for very long. The person may have seconds or minutes to reach a toilet, and if a toilet is not reached may experience an episode of incontinence.

Controlling the passing of faeces can be particularly hard if the individual has loose stools. For some it will be almost impossible to control loose stools, resulting in soiling and incontinence.

3rd and 4th degree tears

Faecal incontinence can arise as a result of damage sustained during childbirth. This will happen if the perineum tears during a vaginal delivery, and the injury extends all the way down into the anal sphincter. These are called 3rd or 4th degree tears.

A 3rd degree tear is when the injury runs through the perineum and into the anal sphincter muscles. A 4th degree tear is when the injury runs through the perineum, into the anal sphincter and into the lining of the rectum.

3rd degree tears and faecal incontinence

Faecal incontinence will not affect every woman who has a 3rd or 4th degree tear. Nevertheless, it is more likely after such injuries because the anal sphincter complex will be damaged. This can reduce the effectiveness of the anal sphincter muscles.

The best way to avoid faecal incontinence after birth is to undergo a surgical repair. This is the responsibility of the obstetric team who should diagnose the injury and ask a surgeon to suture the injury shortly after the delivery.

Afterwards it is important to care for the wound, prevent infection and carry out pelvic floor exercises. All these steps will promote healing, helping the muscles regain normal strength.

Faecal incontinence due to no treatment

All 3rd and 4th degree tears must be surgically repaired after the birth. If the injury is not stitched together, there will be a hole in the anal sphincter and faecal incontinence will almost certainly develop.

If you are now suffering from faecal incontinence because your tear was not treated, it is likely that you are the victim of medical negligence. This means you would be entitled to pursue a claim for compensation. Contact us for more information.

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