Many birth injuries are inevitable. They are a natural part of having a baby. Sadly, some injuries are caused, or made worse, when doctors and other healthcare providers make mistakes during a mother’s pregnancy, labor or delivery. Childbirth injuries to mothers can have an impact on the psychological and/or physical well-being. Injury can occur during any pregnancy, even if the mother has no risk factors and the pregnancy is deemed to be normal.
Common types and causes of birth injuries to mothers include:
About 9 in 10 women suffer perineal tears when the perineum (the skin between the vagina and anus) stretches as the baby is born. Most perineal tears are quite minor and should heal naturally within a short time after the baby is born. However, more serious tears can also extend to the vulva (external genitals) and muscles in the anus (back passage). These require repair, take longer to heal and may have long-term effects.
First degree tears are skin-deep and only affect the outermost layer of skin around the vagina and perineum. You may need a few stitches, but normally they heal quickly. First degree tears have the best chance of quick recovery with minimal pain. Normally, there is no long term damage. Your midwife will decide in consultation with you, whether it is necessary to stitch your first degree tear or not.
Second degree tears are deeper tears, involving the muscles of the vagina and the skin around the anus. Stitches are normally required to help the tear to come together and heal. Dissolvable stitches are usually used, so that the mother doesn’t need to have them removed. Second degree tears can be quite painful and recovery normally takes a few weeks. Your midwife will examine the tear from time to time to ensure that it is healing well. You should report any signs of unusual discomfort or signs of infection to your midwife.
Third and fourth degree perineal tears are the most serious form of tears during childbirth. These types of tears are typically deeper and more serious. Third degree tears damage the anal sphincter (the muscle which controls the anus). Fourth degree tears also involve the lining/muscles of the anus. Third and fourth degree tears are unpredictable. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) lists the following as risk factors:
If you are concerned about suffering a serious tear during birth, you can talk to your or midwife or doctor about it during your antenatal care. They may be able to recommend measures to help reduce the risk of a serious tear, such as perineal massage. Perineal massage helps the perineum to be more elastic and can help reduce the risk of it tearing as your baby is born. Another option is an episiotomy, a procedure designed to reduce the risk of a serious tear.
An episiotomy is a surgical incision made by a doctor or midwife during childbirth. It is a deliberate cut designed to expedite delivery and help reduce the risk of uncontrolled tearing of the perineum. This incision makes the opening of the vagina wider, so there’s more room for the baby to pass through.
There are two types of episiotomy you might hear about:
midline episiotomy – a cut from the vagina directly towards the anus (rarely done)
mediolateral episiotomy – a cut from the vagina, but angled off to one side of the perineum. Mediolateral episiotomies are very common in the United States.
Midwives and doctors should only recommend an episiotomy if there is a medical need, or the mother specifically requests one. It may be the best course of action if your baby is in distress and needs to be born quickly, if they are in a difficult position or if you are having an instrumental delivery using forceps or ventouse.
Some women may prefer an episiotomy over a spontaneous (natural) tear. Spontaneous tears can cause serious, lasting damage to the muscles around the vagina and anus but are said to heal better. Studies show that episiotomies reduce the risk of suffering a serious tear. Your doctor should explain the risks and benefits of an episiotomy to you before performing one.
If you suffer a perineal tear, your caregivers should identify the tear at delivery and manage it appropriately.
Following delivery and for the rest of your postnatal care, your midwife will ask you about the condition of your perineum and where necessary examine the perineum. Care of your perineum forms part of your post-natal midwifery follow up. Serious tears and episiotomies can, unfortunately, cause a great deal of suffering if they are unnoticed and not repaired at the time of delivery or if they’re repaired poorly. For example, they can cause complications such as:
It may also mean you need another procedure to correct the damage (secondary repair), causing further pain and distress.
If you suffered a third or fourth degree tear; if this was not identified and repaired at the time of delivery; and if you suffer continuing problems as a consequence, please contact our Obstetric Anal Sphincter Injury Lawyers.
A negative experience before, during or shortly after childbirth (‘birth trauma’) can affect mental health and wellbeing. Negative experiences during childbirth are highly personal, and everyone reacts differently. However there are some common signs and symptoms, for example:
Many mothers suffer in silence. However, post-natal PTSD and post-natal depression needs the right treatment and support.
If you suffered post-traumatic stress disorder or post-natal depression following a traumatic delivery, please contact our nationwide team of birth injury lawyers.
Women experience some blood loss after giving birth. Vaginal bleeding is normal for about 2 to 6 weeks after the baby is born. The bleeding is normally heaviest in the days immediately after delivery, becoming gradually lighter over time.
However, some women experience abnormally heavy bleeding, which can be dangerous. This is called a post-partum haemorrhage (PPH). There are two types of PPH:
Primary PPH happens in about 5 in 100 pregnancies. Normally, about 500ml (1 pint) of blood may be lost. However, in very rare cases, a particularly severe haemorrhage can lead to blood loss of around 2L (4 pints) or more.
Secondary PPH is rarer and affects less than 2 in 100 women. It normally happens if the mother suffers an infection following delivery. A major bleed can be life threatening. Midwives and doctors are trained to recognise situations where a mother is at high risk of suffering a PPH. They should take the necessary steps in order to reduce the chance of a haemorrhage – or prevent it altogether. And, if a haemorrhage does occur it is important to treat it quickly. Doctors and midwives are trained in controlling heavy bleeding.
If you suffered a post-partum hemorrhage and are concerned about the medical care you received, you may be able to make a birth injury claim. Talk to our labor and delivery injury lawyers by clicking here.
A ruptured uterus is a serious complication during pregnancy. It happens when the wall of the uterus (womb) tears during pregnancy. It’s more common in women who have previously had a caesarean section, at the site of their caesarean section scar.
It is very important that doctors and midwives diagnose and treat a uterine rupture promptly. A ruptured uterus is considered a medical emergency because it can be life-threatening to both the mother and the baby and cause serious damage to the health of the mother and baby.
First line treatment is urgent caesarean section and uterine repair if possible (hysterectomy if not). Usually, the mother loses a lot of blood and needs a transfusion and antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection. It can take a little time to recover from losing so much blood and the surgery itself. Women who have more children in the future will need a caesarean section.
If you suffered a ruptured uterus and are concerned about the medical care you received, you may be able to make a birth injury claim. Please contact our maternal birth injuries experts.
Childbirth can also cause pelvic organ prolapse. This is where one of more of the pelvic organs bulges into the vagina. It’s quite common, and the NHS states that up to half of mothers are affected by some level of prolapse.
Pelvic organ prolapse is more likely in cases where labour was particularly long or difficult, or the baby was particularly large.
A prolapse of the uterus (womb) happens when the uterus slips out of its normal position and down into the vaginal canal. Most of the time, a prolapsed uterus or other pelvic organ isn’t life-threatening. However, it can affect the mother’s quality of life and general wellbeing significantly. Possible symptoms include:
Many cases of a pelvic organ prolapse can be managed through pelvic floor exercises, treating any constipation and weight loss (if appropriate). However, if you suffer a serious prolapse it might require more invasive treatment such as a hysterectomy (removal of the womb, which means the woman cannot have any more children) or surgical repair of the pelvic floor muscles.
If you suffered a prolapsed uterus and are concerned about the medical care you received, you may be able to make a birth injury claim. Contact our maternal birth injuries lawyers for some initial advice.
If you believe that you may have suffered a birth injury, or think that your labour and delivery may have been mismanaged or a mistake made during your care caused the problem, you might have a medical negligence claim.
Doctor negligence can cause birth injuries which affect mothers and their families for the rest of their lives. The effects of childbirth injuries are very personal and individual, but possible consequences include:
If you suffered a birth injury, are worried about the care you received, and think it might have caused a problem, we can help. Our labor and delivery birth injury attorneys know what you’re going through, and we can help you get answers about your care. We’ll listen to your experiences, and help you find out what happened during your pregnancy and delivery. Fill out our contact form for a free case evaluation.
No matter what state you were injured in our team of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers can help as they serve all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. including: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.