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Perineal tears and childbirth: A hidden tragedy

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2021 | Medical Malpractice |

Motherhood is a beautiful thing, but childbirth can be traumatic — especially when something goes wrong.

While most new mothers expect to be handling a lot of diapers, they don’t expect to be wearing them, but that’s exactly what can happen when a new mother suffers a serious perineal tear. The consequences of this event can be devastating.

What’s a perineal tear?

The perineal area is the entire area between a woman’s vaginal and anal openings. It isn’t uncommon for first-time mothers to have some degree of tearing in that area during delivery — and most of them are small and quickly heal.

The vast majority of these wounds are second-degree perineal tears, which means the rip extends through the skin and into the muscle. Even so, these can usually be treated with nothing more than a few surgical stitches. Third-degree tears and fourth-degree tears, however, are much more serious.

A third-degree tear injures skin and muscle all the way from the vaginal area to the anus, and it can lead to permanent damage to the anal sphincter muscles. A fourth-degree tear extends even deeper, all the way into the rectum. Both of these can leave a new mother with fecal and urinary incontinence, chronic pain, foul-smelling discharges and sexual dysfunction that’s permanent.

Doctors know that perineal tears are common — and getting more so. They also know that mothers are at high risk for the problem when:

  • It’s their first vaginal birth
  • The baby is in a breech position
  • The baby is larger than normal
  • The mother is Asian or just generally petite
  • The delivery is assisted with forceps or vacuum suction
  • The mother has had an episiotomy to make the delivery “easier”

If you or your loved one has suffered catastrophic injuries during childbirth, you need to find out if the physician made a mistake. If so, you have a right to expect compensation to help cover your medical bills, recovery and other losses.