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Faecal Incontinence After Obstetric Injury

Although the majority of women in the UK give birth each year without developing on-going complications, there are those who are sadly left with faecal incontinence after giving birth.

Why does obstetric injury lead to faecal incontinence?

Perineal tears are a common risk of childbirth. Most women will sustain a minor tear (either a first or second degree tear). Others will suffer a more serious injury that extends to the anal sphincter. These are known as third and fourth degree tears.

When a third or fourth degree tear occurs, it is absolutely imperative it is recognised and repaired by a qualified surgeon. This is the best way to ensure the injury will not lead to any long-lasting complications most notably, faecal incontinence.

But unfortunately there are times when doctors fail to carry out a repair (usually because the tear is not properly diagnosed) or a repair is performed but to an acceptable standard. The women in question will then be in danger of developing problems.

This is because the external anal sphincter is a skeletal type voluntary muscle employed when you feel stool in the rectum. It serves to hold the faeces, allowing you time to reach a toilet. This function will, however, be compromised in women who have had an injury to the external sphincter. Consequently they will experience faecal urgency and will need to rush to the toilet.

If the obstetric injury has extended to the internal anal sphincter, faecal urgency may also be accompanied by faecal incontinence. The internal anal sphincter is a smooth muscle that remains in a state of contraction and prevents passive loss of faeces. When the rectum distends this muscle relaxes and allows the evacuation of faeces. But if there is an internal anal sphincter weakness, a woman will not be able to control the passing of faeces and will therefore suffer involuntary leakage from the anus.

Have you been left incontinent after a vaginal delivery?

If you have been left incontinent of faeces after a vaginal delivery and you believe doctors are to blame, you need to speak to a solicitor about your options. If a medical negligence lawyer suspects that you have developed complications because medical professionals did not provide an acceptable standard of care (because, for example, they did not diagnose and repair your perineal tear) you could be in a position to claim compensation. This will ensure you receive financial redress for the life-altering complications you have wrongfully endured.

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