A mum has revealed the lifelong impact a serious injury she suffered during childbirth 15-years-ago, now backs a major awareness campaign.
Geeta Nayar, from North London, suffered a third-degree perineal tear and nerve damage when her first child was delivered by forceps.
Geeta, a medical negligence lawyer at a law firm, underwent surgery for her injury also known as an obstetric anal sphincter injury (OASI). However, surgery failed, and the day after her traumatic delivery she started suffering symptoms including incontinence.
However, despite several further procedures, 15 years after giving birth, Geeta, aged 46, continues to suffer with debilitating symptoms including incontinence, pain and scar tissue.
Geeta, who is married, said: “When we got married we were overjoyed to be expecting our first child. We’d painted the nursery bright yellow, and my birth plan had been meticulously prepared. We were excited about what the future held.
“Initially when I went into labour my midwife was calm and put me at ease. However, after several hours it was clear I had stopped making any progress, I was exhausted with pain and there was a change of shift. It was at this point the situation started to deteriorate.
Women of Asian heritage around six times more likely to suffer from perineal tears and nerve damage than white women during natural delivery
“I was concerned about the safety of my daughter, but any request to discuss options such as being moved to theatre were just dismissed.
“The situation continued to deteriorate until, there was marked foetal distress and what followed can only be described as a nightmare.
“Panic ensued, there were several failed attempts at trying to deliver my daughter by a ventouse suction cup followed by an extremely forceful and traumatic forceps delivery.
“My daughter was born with deep cuts to her face and I sustained a tear involving the entire length of the external and internal anal sphincter, and nerve damage.
“I was left completely traumatised by the experience. Instead of holding and feeding my daughter I was taken to theatre for several hours for an attempted repair. This unfortunately failed and I suffered my first episode of incontinence the very next day.”
Geeta was discharged three days later. However, once home she had no medical support and struggled to leave the house because of her injuries.
Geeta visited her GP several times. It was only several months later she was referred to a specialist perineal trauma unit. Following tests, the full extent of her injuries, including that her nerves had been damaged and initial surgery had failed was established.
Geeta has since undergone several procedures but still lives with her symptoms.
She added: “I went from being a resilient, independent woman to needing significant help.
“While my friends were meeting in the park and attending baby groups, I was barely able to leave the house. I struggled on, but, after several months the situation was dire. It was only when I finally saw a specialist several months later I was told for the first time how serious my injuries were.
“Since then I have undergone further surgical repairs which have also failed but I simply have had to adjust the way I live to cope.”
While undertaking research into OASI injuries, Geeta came across statistics that documented ethnicity as a significant risk factor and that Asian women have the highest risk of third and fourth degree perineal injuries.
“Had my ethnicity been taken into account and I’d been told of my greater risk of perineal injury as a South Asian woman having her first child, and the healthcare professionals whose care I was under knew of these risk factors, I strongly believe the outcome may have been different.
“It’s taken me many years to come to terms with and find the courage to speak about what happened to me.
“The issue of birth trauma is still relatively taboo, but I hope by speaking out I can help other women. Support from organisations such as The MASIC Foundation and The Birth Trauma Association is available, no-one should have to go through this experience alone.
The MASIC Foundation is calling on the NHS to implement a seven point plan to reduce birth injuries including increased training, awareness for pregnant women as well as specialist clinics and psychological support.
Research from the birth injury charity The MASIC Foundation found around one in 20 first-time mums, suffer an OASI during childbirth. However, further studies have found ethnicity also plays an issue, with women of Asian heritage around six times more likely to suffer an OASI than white women during natural delivery.