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Is a Bowel Injury in Childbirth Negligent?

Is a Bowel Injury in Childbirth Negligent?

It can be shocking to discover that you have suffered a bowel injury during the birth of your child. You may be wondering who is responsible.

Anal injury in childbirth

Suffering a bowel injury during the birth of your baby is not necessarily due to any medical negligence. The majority of women who give birth vaginally (as opposed to by caesarean section) suffer some degree of damage to the area around the vagina during the birth.

A few, highly unfortunate, women experience such severe damage that it extends from the vagina to the anus, damaging the external and internal sphincter and, occasionally, the internal lining of the anal canal. These injuries are described as third or fourth degree tears depending on the extent and location of damage.

This may occur if your baby is heavy, if it is your first vaginal birth, if your obstetrician had to use forceps or a ventouse to assist the birth or if you experience shoulder dystocia where your baby becomes stuck behind your pubic bone.

Repairing anal sphincter injuries

If a third or fourth degree tear is diagnosed at the time of the birth and competently, fully and appropriately repaired by a surgeon in an operating theatre, the woman should recover and be symptom-free within 12 months.

In these circumstances, the medical professionals concerned would not be considered to have acted negligently. A perineal tear is a risk of childbirth and a competent repair is the necessary response.

Failure to diagnose

A successful repair, however, can only take place if an accurate diagnosis has been made.

If a severe perineal tear is misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all, a full and effective repair is unlikely to take place.

This could leave the woman affected with the following embarrassing, distressing and debilitating symptoms:

  • Wind incontinence
  • Faecal incontinence
  • Extreme urgency when needing the toilet
  • Perineal infections

In the long-term these symptoms can cause physical, psychological and financial difficulties. The woman may be unable to return to work and find it hard to leave her home for fear of a bowel 'accident' occurring.

In this scenario, the medical professionals who attended the birth may be regarded as having acted negligently in failing to diagnose the woman's injury and it may be appropriate to make a claim for compensation.

Speak to a solicitor

If you are suffering from the appalling, long-term impact of a misdiagnosed severe tear, a successful compensation claim can help to deal with the financial problems you may be encountering. If you have been unable to return to work or are restricted in your employment due to the failure to repair your childbirth injury, contact us to talk to a specialist medical negligence solicitor about your situation.

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