Perineal And Vaginal Tears 

Tears to the mother’s perineum occur more frequently with the birth of a first child, where the baby weighs greater than 4 kilos, after a delivery assisted by forceps or other instruments, or with a lengthy second stage of labour which lasts longer than two hours. There are different grades of perineal tears, as follows: 

  • First degree tears:

Are tears to the skin of the perineum. Often, these don’t require stitches, or few stitches are needed and, after suturing, these tend to cause neither lasting discomfort nor lasting problems.

  • Second degree tears:

Include skin and muscle layers. They need to be stitched and can be uncomfortable initially. However, like first degree tears these happen frequently and generally don’t cause long term problems.

  • Third and Fourth degree tears:

Are often much more severe and tend to cause lasting problems, as these involve all layers of the perineum and reach or involve the muscle layer of the anal sphincter and/or all layers of the anus. A delay in diagnosis and treatment of these can result in long term problems, including inability to contain wind, loss of bladder/bowel control and incontinence, severe pain, including pain during sex, pain using the toilet and sexual dysfunction. 

There can be medical negligence claims relating to failure to diagnose or delay in diagnosis, failure to recognise the extent of the tear or failure to adequately repair the perineal tear and failure to prevent third and fourth degree tears.  If a patient is noted to have risks of a third or fourth degree tear an episiotomy may have to be performed to help deliver the baby faster and to help prevent a third or fourth degree tear with severe damage to the perineum and anus.

Treatment of third and fourth degree tears includes suturing, usually by a doctor in theatre, physiotherapy and antibiotics. In the case of future pregancies, women who have had previous severe tears may be advised to have Caesarean Sections.

Some but not all fourth degree tears can be caused by clinical negligence. Occasionally third degree tears can also be caused by negligence for example if an Episiotomy should have been performed, or if there was negligent suturing, which caused additional damage.  If you have ongoing problems following a third or fourth degree perineal tear, following treatment for a perineal tear or following a delay in treatment of a perineal tear, you will have a claim for compensation if medical or midwifery negligence caused or made a material contribution to your injury. However, do be aware that some such injuries are unavoidable complications of childbirth and will occur despite an acceptable standard of treatment. 

We are specialist medical negligence solicitors and birth injury lawyers and if you have ended up with a third or fourth degree perineal tear or other birth injury as a result of medical negligence or midwifery negligence during childbirth we can help you obtain compensation. The team of specialist medical negligence solicitors at Chadwick Lawrence is led by Tony May, a specialist birth injury and cerebral palsy solicitor. He has over 20 years experience in dealing with birth injury cases.

Tony can be contacted by email on or by telephone on 01484 519999. Alternatively, you could call our team on the freephone number below.Our dedicated team of specialist clinical negligence, birth injury and cerebral palsy solicitors deal with claims countrywide. We are based at our Huddersfield office but can visit you in your home or in hospital if you are unable to attend at one of our West Yorkshire offices. If you believe that you or your child may have sustained a birth injury as a result of medical negligence and/or negligence by a midwife, please contact our specialist medical negligence Legal Aid and no-win-no-fee lawyers for free legal advice.

Contact Chadwick Lawrence for free legal advice on FREE PHONE 0800 028 2969 or

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