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Understanding Third Degree Tear Claims

Understanding Third Degree Tear Claims

A third degree tear can occur naturally during vaginal childbirth. It is not necessarily a sign of medical negligence in itself.

However, if the medical professionals attending the birth do not follow guidelines regarding examination, diagnosis and repair, they may be considered to have provided substandard care.

If the new mother suffers long-term debilitating symptoms as a result of her poor care, it may be appropriate to make a claim for compensation.

What are third degree tears?

Third degree tears are injuries during vaginal childbirth which go beyond damaging the vagina and perineum to affect the woman's anal sphincter. The anal sphincter consists of both external and internal muscles which manage the passing of wind and faeces.

Third degree tears are classified according to how much damage they have done:

  • A 3a tear damages less than 50% of the thickness of the external sphincter
  • A 3b tear damages more than 50% of the external sphincter
  • A 3c tear damages both the external and internal sphincter

Injury to the anal sphincter can cause incontinence of both wind and faeces.


If a third degree tear goes undiagnosed, the symptoms may become permanent, severely affecting a woman's quality of life. Prompt and accurate diagnosis is absolutely crucial.

In order to assess any anal damage during vaginal childbirth, it is important that a digital rectal examination is carried out. The new mother needs to be made comfortable and advised of the need for this procedure before it is carried out. If it is not undertaken, damage to the anal sphincter may be missed.

If any damage is identified, it needs to be classified as above.

Medical negligence

If perineal and anal damage are not diagnosed accurately, the relevant medical professionals are likely to be regarded as having provided substandard care.

Medical negligence may occur for a number of reasons:

  • No examination or an inadequate examination is carried out resulting in a failure to diagnose damage
  • Inadequate knowledge or training may lead to a misdiagnosis of injury
  • The diagnosis may be accurate but the subsequent repair (which should take place in an operating theatre) may be inadequate, leaving the new mother with on-going symptoms

Legal advice

The long-term effects of an undiagnosed or poorly-repaired third degree tear can be life-changing, impacting on a woman's self-confidence, her ability to work and her ability to support her new-born child.

If you are struggling with the on-going effect of poor-quality medical care during the birth of your baby, contact Glynns Solicitors to discuss your situation with a specialist medical negligence solicitor.

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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