What Are The Most Common Birth Injuries To Mothers?
28 May 2019
Having a baby should usually be one of the happiest moments in a women’s life. However when things go wrong and mistakes are made during labour, some women can be left with life changing injuries, affecting their career, relationships and mental well-being.
Physical Birth Injuries
Women can face many different types of physical injuries during labour, some of which will be unavoidable due to the nature of giving birth naturally. If, however, a doctor or midwife makes a mistake during the pregnancy, labour or delivery, this can directly cause the extent of the injuries to be worse. Common physical birth injuries include:
Vaginal tears during labour
The majority of women who give birth naturally will experience perineal tears, however the severity of the tears can vary.
First degree tears: These type of tears are skin deep and affect the outer layer of skin around the vagina and perineum. They usually cause no long term damage and heal quickly with a couple of stitches (although stitches aren’t always required).
Second degree tears: Are deeper tears that usually require stitching to help the teared muscles of the vagina and the skin around the anus to heal. The tears can leave the mother in pain for a few weeks after the birth.
Third degree & Fourth degree tears: Are the deepest and most serious form of tears. Third degree tears cause damage to the anal sphincter and fourth degree tears damage the lining and muscles of the anus. Although third and fourth degree tears are unpredictable there are factors which can make them more likely to happen, including:
• The size of the baby – if the baby’s weight is 9lbs or over.
• If the labour is induced.
• If it is the mothers first natural birth.
• If forceps or ventouse are needed to assist the birth.
• If the baby’s shoulder gets stuck (shoulder dystocia)
• If the second stage of labour takes a long time
Episiotomy: Women who fear that they may incur a serious tear during childbirth may be advised to have an episiotomy. An episiotomy is a surgical incision which makes the opening of the vagina wider, allowing more room to deliver the baby. An episiotomy will only be recommended if it is medically necessary, i.e. in instances when the baby is distressed and needs to be born quickly, the baby is breached, if forceps are needed to assist delivery, or if the mother requests one.
Ongoing issues tears can cause:
If you experience a serious tear during labour that has failed to be detected and treated effectively by your doctor or midwife, this can lead to further health complications, including:
• Pain when passing urine and during sexual intercourse
• Pain and soreness – especially when sitting down for a long time or during exercise.
• Rectovaginal fistula – this is a serious tear that causes a hole in the wall between the vagina and the anus, causing faeces to pass though into the vagina.
Depending on the severity of the tears, further corrective procedures may be necessary, which may lead to even further pain and suffering.
Haemorrhaging after birth – Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH)
All women will experience vaginal bleeding after giving birth. Bleeding typically lasts 2-6 weeks, and is heaviest in the days straight after delivery, before becoming lighter. Some women can however experience extremely heavy bleeding known as post-partum haemorrhage (PPH), which can be life threatening. PPH can be categorised as: primary or immediate PPH – which involves heavy bleeding within 24 hours of the birth. Secondary or delayed PPH is heavy bleeding that starts 24 hours after giving birth and can last for up to 6 weeks.
When the wall of the uterus (the womb) tears during pregnancy, this is known as a uterine rupture. They usually happen due to a buildup of pressure as the baby moves through the birth cancel, causing the uterus to tear. Women who have previously had cesarean may find that they will tear along their delivery scar.
Uterine ruptures are very serious and can cause the mother to develop an increase in heart rate, drop in blood pressure, a haemorrhage or pain that is not caused by contractions. In the worst case scenario the mother can even die as a result – although this is extremely rare if the women gives birth in hospital.
A uterine rupture does however have a greater consequence on the life of the baby, as soon as a rupture is detected medical staff must act quickly to deliver the baby from the mother, as the baby will die from lack of oxygen if not delivered within 10-40 minutes.
A uterine prolapse happens when a women’s pelvic floor muscles and ligaments stretch and weaken, leading to no longer being able to keep the uterus in place. This results in the uterus slipping down into the vaginal canal.
Women who experience a particularly long, traumatic or difficult labour, or deliver a large baby are more at risk of developing a uterine prolapse due to childbirth. The symptoms of a uterine prolapse include:
• Urinary incontinence
• Pain during sexual intercourse
• A sensation of heaviness in the pelvis
The serious of the uterine prolapse can vary. Some women can manage their symptoms by doing pelvic floor exercises, whilst those who experience a serious prolapse may require surgery to repair the pelvic floor muscles, or even a hysterectomy.
Post-natal depression (PND) and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Some women who have experienced a traumatic birth may suffer from post-natal depression (PND) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many women feel ashamed if they are affected by PND, leading them to not seek treatment or support. PND is however extremely common with as many as 3 in 10 new mothers experiencing symptoms such as:
• Difficulty bonding with their baby
• Feelings of constant exhaustion and hopelessness
• Issues sleeping
• Feelings of guilt and isolation
How to make a birth injury claim for negligence?
If you believe that the birth injuries that you suffered whilst pregnant, or during labour, were made worse due to the negligent care or treatment of a medical professional you may be eligible to make a claim. TRUE Solicitors expert medical negligence solicitors are experienced in handling birth injury claims and will manage your case with compassion and care.