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Mothers can suffer birth injuries during delivery, too

Not all birth injuries affect the infant. Mothers often suffer tears in their vagina or perineum, the area between the vagina and anus, while delivering their babies. If not treated properly, the mother can endure serious complications.

Vaginal tears can range from minor nicks to deep lacerations that reach muscles in the pelvic floor. Severe tears are rated third-degree and fourth-degree. A third-degree laceration affects the vaginal tissue and the skin and muscle in the perineum. A fourth-degree tear reaches the anal sphincter and the tissue underneath. Other tears can affect the labia, or go deeply into the vagina only.

Rick factors for a serious tear include going through your first vaginal delivery, having suffered a third- or fourth-degree laceration in a prior delivery, the use of forceps by the doctor, pushing for a long time during delivery, and the baby being born face-up.

Stitches may be necessary to close the tear. Left untreated, a major tear can cause pain and anal incontinence.

Most obstetricians take reasonable steps to identify if the mother is at risk of a vaginal or perineal tear during labor, and apply treatment when necessary. However, sometimes doctors fail to consider the possibility of a tear if the mother delivers vaginally, especially if it is an assisted delivery. The doctor may also rush the delivery or be too eager to perform an episiotomy, which can lead to a tear.

Doctors who needlessly cause suffering to their patients should be held accountable. In civil court, this usually means suing for medical malpractice.

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