Giving birth is one of the most rewarding experiences that many women will experience and thankfully, although most women do experience tearing whilst giving birth, it is usually not serious and heals after a couple of stitches and some time.
However, there are some women who are not so lucky and who end up with a serious birth injury. The impact of this kind of injury can be extremely difficult to cope with, particularly when you want to enjoy your new baby and being a mother too.
Tears in childbirth are classified from first degree to fourth degree in order of their seriousness. They are:
- First Degree Tears – small tears, which only affect skin and heal quickly on their own
- Second Degree Tears – these are bigger and will affect the muscle as well as the skin of the perineum (the area between the vagina and the anus) and will need stiches to heal.
- Third Degree Tears – this tear may run from the vaginal wall, across the perineum and toward the anal sphincter, which is the muscle that controls the anus
- Fourth Degree Tears – this tear will be the same as a third degree tear, but it will extend further into the anal canal and the rectum too.
90% of women who give birth will experience a tear, but 9% of these will suffer from a third or fourth degree tear, which do have serious consequences.
The impact of third or fourth degree tear can be devastating, with surgery needed to repair the damage in the short term. You will need to have antibiotics to prevent any infections from the tear and probably pain relief too. You may also be given laxatives in the short term to help with going to the toilet, as you will be sore.
Some of the ongoing problems which you may face are the inability to control passing wind and the need to rush to the toilet to open your bowels. In extreme circumstances there may be faecal incontinence and it could be necessary to have a stoma fitted to allow the rectum to heal properly.
There are some pre-existing factors which can indicate the increased chances of a third or fourth degree tear, such as:
- A large baby (over 8 lb. 14 oz.)
- If it is your first vaginal birth
- If your labour was induced
- You have a long second stage of labour
- You have an assisted delivery with forceps or ventouse
- Your baby gets stuck behind your pelvic bone, known as shoulder dystocia
Your medical team should pick up your increased chance of tearing with the associated pre-existing factors and take steps to try to avoid these serious birth injuries wherever possible.
Third Degree Tear Claims Northern Ireland
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