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We Need to Talk about Tearing

We Need to Talk about Tearing

Perineal tears during childbirth appear to be on the increase in this country. Yet, how many women are really aware of the possible risk and possible long-term effects of this appalling injury?

What are perineal tears?

Perineal tears are injuries to the perineal area between the vagina and the anus which can occur naturally during childbirth as the baby emerges. They are described according to how far the tear extends. 1st degree tears are small tears that probably only affect the skin of the perineum. However, tears can also affect the muscle of the perineum and, at their worst (3rd and 4th degree tears), damage the anal sphincter and muscle of the anal canal as well.

What are the effects of perineal tears?

The effect of a perineal tear can be devastating and life-long as well as life-changing. Where a 1st degree tear may heal naturally in a few weeks, 3rd and 4th degree tears can cause serious injuries:

  • Wind incontinence where you cannot prevent yourself from passing wind
  • Faecal urgency where you have no time to get to the toilet
  • A fistula an abnormal hole between the bowel and vagina which may allow faeces (waste) to leak out of your vagina

It can also affect your control of your bladder, cause on-going infections, and make it difficult to keep yourself hygienic and clean-smelling.

In addition it can make sexual intercourse both uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Lack of knowledge

These are all pretty dreadful effects which no woman would want to experience, particularly when they have just given birth, possibly to their first child and they need all their energy, health and positivity to care for their child.

And yet, frequently, women say that they had no idea about the possibility of these horrific injuries, were given no advice as to how to prevent them and received little sympathy when they mentioned their symptoms.

How many women suffer from perineal tears?

It is thought that up to 5% of women in the UK experience a severe tear during childbirth. This figure appears to represent an increase in recent years although it is possible that this is due to greater awareness and better diagnosis and recording.

What advice is given to prevent perineal tears?

There are ways in which women can try to reduce their chances of experiencing a severe tear such as by improving the tone and flexibility of the perineum through pelvic floor exercises and perineal massage during pregnancy.

The choice of birthing position and behaviour during labour can also affect the likelihood of a tear.

It is important that women are made aware of the need to avoid a tear and the best way to achieve this is by ensuring that women are knowledgeable and realistic about the possible physical effects of childbirth. This can only be achieved through education, via the midwife, doctors, ante-natal classes and the press.

What should happen if you suffer a tear?

Sometimes a perineal tear is hard to avoid. In these instances, prompt and efficient medical treatment is vital. A thorough examination after the birth is necessary to check for tears. A clear and accurate diagnosis of the degree of tear is key to achieving the best outcome. And, where a severe tear has occurred, expert repair by a skilled surgeon is required.

Medical Negligence

If you received a severe tear during childbirth and are still suffering from the appalling long-term effects, you may have been the victim of medical negligence. If your tear was incorrectly diagnosed, or your repair was inadequate, the medical practitioners were possibly negligent.

Contact Glynns Solicitors to discuss your circumstances. We have supported many women who have experienced the shocking impact of a severe birth tear and compensation can help to deal with the long-term effects.

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

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