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Vaginal tears during birth can be serious if missed by the doctor

Way back in January, we discussed how pregnant women can suffer vaginal tears during labor. These tears are often relatively minor, but might also seriously threaten the mother’s health.

As Baylor Scott & White Hospital’s website explains, more serious tears can lead to hemorrhaging, a medical term for heavy bleeding. Other possible effects include pain, swelling and tenderness. Anal incontinence is also possible in some cases.

Since there are (hopefully) medical providers present during a birth, vaginal tears during delivery should be diagnosed quickly after they occur. Mild tears may be left to heal on their own, but more extensive lacerations require medical intervention. Besides stitches, an observant doctor might prescribe topical treatment like creams, antibiotic ointment or a petroleum product. The most serious cases may require the mother to spend more time in the hospital and undergo surgery.

Of course, if the mother’s doctor misses signs of a significant tear, or orders the wrong course of treatment, the injured woman’s condition could grow worse. Incidentally, vaginal tears can also occur due to trauma, such as from sexual contact, and even spontaneously.

There can be a lot going on during labor. But the doctor should pay close attention to the mother’s condition, as well as the baby’s. As in any doctor-patient relationship, an obstetrician helping a woman give birth owes the patient a duty to provide a certain standard of care. Care that falls below that standard puts the patient at needless risk. This is compounded during delivery, when there are two patients to consider.

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