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Childbirth And Sphincter Injuries

Childbirth And Sphincter Injuries

If a woman sustains a sphincter injury during childbirth, it is important the damage is identified and treated straight away. Otherwise she will suffer unwelcome problems which could turn into long-term complications.

When Should a Sphincter Injury be Diagnosed?

A sphincter injury should be diagnosed shortly after childbirth during the post-delivery examination. This should take place soon after delivery, and must involve both a vaginal and a digital rectum examination. This will allow any damage to the perineum or to the sphincter to be diagnosed.

A post-delivery examination is now routine practice, and should be performed on all women who have undergone a vaginal delivery. However, particular attention should be paid to at-risk groups, such as:-

  • First time mothers;
  • Assisted deliveries;
  • Prolonged labour;
  • Shoulder dystocia.

What Happens if a Sphincter Injury is Not Diagnosed?

Once a sphincter injury is diagnosed, treatment should be arranged as soon as possible. This will help prevent further complications, and will also increase the chance of recovery.

Sphincter damage should be repaired in a well-lit theatre by a specialist surgeon usually a colorectal surgeon. Before being discharged from hospital, a woman should be given advice on how to look after her injury, and further review should be planned.

However, if a sphincter injury is not noticed and a woman is sent home from hospital, she will soon start to experience problems. This will vary depending upon the nature of the injury, but is likely to include:-

  • Loss of sensation;
  • Loss of anal tone;
  • Faecal incontinence;
  • Faecal seepage and urgency;
  • Incontinence of flatus;
  • Faeces lost through the vagina.

When a sphincter injury is eventually diagnosed, it is likely a woman will need secondary repair surgery. Sacral nerve stimulation may also be recommended. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that incontinence treatment will be successful. In particular, patients who have had sphincter repair have reported a continuing incontinence to flatus. It is possible, therefore, that a woman could be left with long-term complications. These can prove to have serious psychological effects, as many will feel embarrassed and upset about their condition.

Does This Amount to Medical Negligence?

If you have suffered sphincter damage during childbirth that was not diagnosed, you may have been the victim of medical negligence. To find out more, you need to discuss your treatment with a legal expert. A medical negligence solicitor will be able to listen to the details of your case before suggesting whether or not you received a substandard level of care. If you are advised that you are able to make a claim, you could receive compensation for the pain and suffering you have experienced.

Can We Help You With A Medical Negligence Enquiry?

Early legal assistance can be vital so please contact us if you would like to discuss your situation. Please call us free on 0800 234 3300 (or from a mobile 01275 334030) or complete our Online Enquiry Form.

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