Women's Experiences After a Third‐Degree Obstetric Anal Sphincter Tear: A Qualitative Study

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Abstract:

Abstract: 

Background:Little qualitative data are available that address the experiences of women who sustain a third‐degree obstetric anal sphincter tear during childbirth. The objective of this study was to explore the views and experiences of women in the postpartum period after sustaining a third‐degree obstetric anal sphincter tear. Methods:A qualitative study was conducted using focus groups in a large maternity hospital in the United Kingdom. Two focus groups used a purposive sample of women who had suffered a third‐degree tear. One group (n = 6) had a tear in the index pregnancy and the second group (n = 4) had a subsequent pregnancy after the tear. Results:The main themes identified included apprehension about consequences of the injury in terms of continence; body image and sexual functioning; anxiety about and lack of involvement in planning for future pregnancies; poor information exchange and communication (including both content and timing of discussions); poor emotional support from professionals and family members; physical and emotional impact; and unresolved anxieties in partners. Similarities occurred across both groups. Conclusions:A third‐degree tear causes a significant emotional and psychological impact on women's physical and emotional well‐being. We recommend that all staff receive adequate training to deal with the issues that may be raised. The provision of a dedicated, multidisciplinary team involved at an early stage to coordinate the repair and follow‐up is recommended to allow a sensitive, consistent, evidence‐based approach, particularly in terms of decision‐making for subsequent births. The experiences and needs of partners require further study. (BIRTH 32:2 June 2005)

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0730-7659.2005.00356.x

Affiliations: Research Fellow in the Urodynamics Department, Liverpool Women's Hospital, Liverpool;

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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