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Is Misdiagnosing a Perineal Tear Negligent?

Is Misdiagnosing a Perineal Tear Negligent?

If you have been left with permanent symptoms due to a perineal tear during the birth of your child, you may be wondering if you are entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Diagnosing a Perineal Tear

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, an examination for signs of a perineal tear after the birth of your baby ought to be an automatic procedure. Your midwife or obstetrician should carry out an examination of your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) as well as a digital rectal examination (D.R.E.) where a finger is inserted into your anus to check for possible damage. This is necessary in order to check if you have suffered a severe, as opposed to a superficial, tear.

Furthermore, it is vital that the tear, if you have one, is accurately diagnosed. Approximately 90% of women who give birth vaginally will suffer a perineal tear of some sort as the baby emerges from the vagina, and most of these will be 1st or 2nd degree tears which should heal quickly and well. However, some 5% of women will suffer a severe tear and, if this is not identified precisely at the time, the woman could develop appalling symptoms that may continue for life.

Severe tears

Severe tears are so called because they cause the woman to lose control of her bowels. This means that she may lose the ability to control the release of wind or faeces, rendering her effectively incontinent. At best, she may feel significant urgency when needing the toilet.

This outcome occurs because the tear has extended as far as the anus and damaged the muscles which control the opening and closing of the bowels. It may also involve damage to the inner lining of the anal canal.

It is unlikely that such damage will be evident without a digital rectal examination. Therefore, if such an examination is not carried out and the mother is subsequently found to be suffering a third or fourth degree perineal tear, she is likely to have been the victim of substandard medical care.

Recording of perineal tears

If you are diagnosed with a perineal tear, it is also important that the grade of tear is accurately recorded. The mother will need a surgical repair in an operating theatre and it is vital to ensure that the correct grade of tear is being repaired in order to ensure a full and effective repair. Otherwise, the woman may retain some symptoms despite having undergone surgery. She may then require further surgery or it may be too late to complete a proper repair.


In summary, therefore:

  • A failure to carry out an examination, leading to a failure to diagnose a perineal tear at all is likely to be considered as negligent
  • A misdiagnosis leading to a poorer outcome might be negligent
  • A failure to record the degree of tear, leading to an inadequate repair might be considered as negligent

Legal Advice

If you are suffering from the on-going effects of a misdiagnosed severe perineal tear, speak to a specialist medical negligence solicitor.

Here at Glynns Solicitors, we have considerable experience of supporting compensation claims for perineal tears and would be happy to offer free advice as to the likelihood of a successful medical negligence claim.

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

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"Before we contacted you we had no real idea that we had grounds for a medical negligence claim but after speaking to you if became clear that Wendy was indeed treated poorly. Chris took the time to explain what was happening and kept us to speed. Our deepest gratitude to you all and Chris in particular."

"I would like to say a big thank you to you for making this whole process easy and relatively painless. You kept me informed throughout and you were always polite and courteous in all forms of communication. I would not hesitate to recommend you to friends and family, so a really big thank you and I wish you all the best in the future."

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