A mother who suffered a fourth-degree tear during the delivery of her first child at Croydon University Hospital, formerly known as the Mayday Hospital, has received significant damages and an apology from the Croydon Health Services NHS Trust. The woman known only as Mrs L, to protect her identity, was admitted to the hospital in December 2009.

After a long labour of over 18 hours and almost two hours of pushing she was transferred to theatre for failure to progress.

A ventouse delivery was unsuccessful and delivery by forceps was attempted.

After three pulls Mrs L’s baby was delivered. Unfortunately, during the forceps delivery, Mrs L suffered bilateral tears and a fourth-degree tear in which her internal and external anal sphincters were damaged.

The damage Mrs L had suffered to her external sphincter was identified by her doctors following the birth of her baby and repaired.

After delivery, Mrs L suffered a major obstetric haemorrhage and was transferred to the High Dependency Unit.

As a result of her anal sphincter injuries and labial tears, Mrs L suffered dyspareunia and continues to suffer ongoing symptoms of faecal incontinence and incontinence of flatulence.

She has also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, postnatal depression, panic attacks and flashbacks as a result of her injuries.

Mrs L’s physical symptoms have caused her distress and embarrassment and have affected her sexual and social life, and consequently also her marriage.

She was represented in her claim against Croydon Health Services NHS Trust by specialist medical negligence partner, Emmalene Bushnell and solicitor, Kriya Amin from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day.

Expert evidence obtained from a consultant obstetrician concluded that there had been a failure to perform an episiotomy at the time of the first pull using forceps, and failures to identify damage to and repair the internal anal sphincter and a failure by the consultant to attend within a reasonable timeframe when the major obstetric haemorrhage alert was made.

The trust admitted liability for the negligent failure to repair the internal anal sphincters and acknowledged that had these been repaired following delivery, Mrs L would not have suffered flatus incontinence.

Mrs L’s case settled for a substantial amount of compensation and she received an apology from the trust.

Mrs L said:

"No amount of money can compensate for the cost I've paid to give birth to my first baby at the Croydon University Hospital. I suffered physical, emotional and psychological trauma which will continue for the rest of my life. I was very angry to begin with but came to realise that holding on to that anger will not allow me to heal. I chose healing and therefore had to let go. I have forgiven the doctors that were involved.

“When I first decided to take this matter to the courts, I spoke to many lawyers in London but they would not touch this particular case as they believed it was difficult identifying and claiming for medical negligence. However, the team at Leigh Day saw the potential for a claim and told me they would take the case.

“I am very grateful to Emmalene and Kriya, they are the ones that made it possible for me to claim compensation and even secured an apology from the hospital. They were very professional and always made time for my calls and emails. I want to thank them for making this happen."

Kriya Amin, solicitor in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day said:

‘Our client was a first-time mother when she suffered significant and avoidable anal sphincter injuries following the birth of her child. These injuries caused her significant distress at a time when she also had a new-born baby to care for.

“Whilst we are pleased that the trust have admitted liability and settled her claim, the ongoing and considerable effect these failures have had on our client’s life and her marriage, cannot be underestimated.”