A childbirth tear is not unusual but for some reason, it’s one of the least common topics we tend to talk about when discussing labour.
Whether you’re about to give birth for the first time or have experienced a tear in childbirth, it’s important to know who to turn to for support. Thankfully, there are sources of support you can reach out to should you have any worries or concerns.
How does a childbirth tear happen?
Sometimes a doctor or midwife may need to cut between the vagina and anus during childbirth to help deliver the baby. This is more common in new mums as the vagina is less elastic. A tear also might be necessary if the baby is particularly large; if the baby appears to be in foetal distress; if your midwife has had to use forceps; or if you have a serious health condition, which means you need a short labour and birth to keep you safe.
The time it takes for your tear to heal will depend on the severity of it. Typically, it can take up to a month for first-degree tears, which are small tears affecting only the skin, to heal. However, second, third and fourth-degree tears might take longer as these types of tears also affect the perineal muscles and anal sphincter.
Who should you turn to for support?
Getting the right support after a childbirth tear is critical for ensuring a healthy recovery. Every tear should be assessed to determine the severity of it and the type of care you will need.
If the level of care falls below the appropriate standard, or if your midwife has failed to follow the guidelines set out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) on how to manage tears, then you could be in a position to take legal action.
If you’re concerned about a tear, or if you’re worried about tearing in childbirth, you shouldn’t feel alone. I’ve signposted you to a few places you can turn to for advice and support below.
Support from your midwife or GP
You will usually be offered an appointment with your GP or midwife at least six weeks after you have had your baby, to make sure you are recovering well and to discuss any concerns you may have. However, you should contact them sooner if you are in pain or have any immediate concerns about a tear, or if you think it’s become infected, so they can give you the appropriate treatment.
Your midwife or GP will be able to advise on your recovery and how to care for the tear, as well as what pain relief is safe to take if you’re breastfeeding. They will also discuss with you what activities you should avoid while the tear heals.
Support from groups
It’s not just physical support that is required after a tear. Tearing in childbirth can be a traumatic experience, so it’s completely understandable if you require emotional support. You might have built up a network of mums during your pregnancy, who you could share your experience with or voice your concerns to. Alternatively, the NCT offers some comfort to new mums. They have a collection of stories from new mums who have blogged about their experience of birth and their recovery after a tear. They also have local groups of new mums in the area who are joined by a qualified group leader and meet up to explore parenting issues, and a support line to call.
Support from a solicitor
If you’re not happy with the level of care you received, or if you believe your childbirth tear wasn’t repaired or treated properly, you may have a medical negligence case on your hands.
A solicitor who has experience of handling medical negligence claims will be able to advice on whether you have a case to make against your healthcare provider. If you do have a case, they will be able to investigate your complaint to the hospital or healthcare provider, and guide you through the process of making a childbirth tear claim for compensation.
Author bio: Thompsons Solicitors is one of the UK’s leading law firms. Our team of specialist lawyers run and win claims for our clients who have been injured as a result of medical negligence.