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Posted on 27th February 2017

Perineal Tears and Episiotomies

For most people getting pregnant and having a baby is one of the happiest times in their lives.

Midwives will help you prepare a birth plan so you know what is happening, when it will happen and most importantly how you want it to happen.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always go to plan. Giving birth is still not without its risk, and although we have a fantastic health care system, things can still go very wrong.

One birth injury that people are getting in touch with us about is Perineal tears and episiotomies.

What is an episiotomy?

NHS choices says that an episiotomy is when a doctor or midwife cuts the perineum (the area between your vagina and your rectum/back passage) during childbirth. This makes the opening of the vagina bigger, allowing the baby to come through easier.

What is a Perineal tear?

Many women will experience some sort of tearing to their perineum (the area between your vagina and your rectum/back passage) during childbirth. This is called a “perineal tear”. There are different levels of tearing:

  • First-degree tears – small, skin-deep tears which usually heal naturally
  • Second-degree tears – deeper tears affecting the muscle of the perineum as well as the skin; these usually require stitches

For some women with a tear, the tear may be more serious:

  • A third-degree tear extending downwards from the vaginal wall and perineum to the anal sphincter, the muscle that controls the anus
  • A fourth-degree tear extending to the anus or rectum

Source: Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists

How common are third and fourth degree tears?

According to the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists third and fourth degree tears on average happen to about 3 in every 100 women who have a vaginal birth. If it is your first baby, they say it can be slightly more common and the number rises to 6 in every 100.

Can I claim for a perineal tear?

Tearing in itself is not caused by any negligence and due to the area where the tear occurs it can take time to heal. However, women who have suffered third and fourth degree tears can suffer traumatic symptoms such as incontinence of stool, severe pain and unbearable pain during sexual intercourse. Many women suffer in silence, believe it is just part of giving birth. These symptoms are very real and can cause years of pain and psychological damage. These are issues that might be the result of negligence.

What should I do next?

The first thing you should do is talk to your doctor, or healthcare professional. If you want to make a compliant then you should follow the NHS complaints procedure.

However, if you have suffered a 3rd or 4th degree tear during childbirth and you believe that you were misdiagnosed for treated negligently, then contact one of our friendly team today. They will be able to take all your information and pass it to one of our expert solicitors who will be able to review your case for free.

Further Information