This study aimed to investigate the reproductive impact of a third- or fourth-degree tear in primigravid women. A retrospective population-based cohort study was conducted using data from Scottish Morbidity Records (SMR02). Primigravid women with a vaginal birth in Scotland from 1997 until 2010 were included. Exposure was third- or fourth-degree tear in the first pregnancy. The second pregnancy rate, interpregnancy interval and third- or fourth-degree tear in a second pregnancy were the primary outcomes. A nested case-control study was used to determine factors associated with repeat third- or fourth-degree tears in a second vaginal birth. Cox regression analysis and logistic regression were used to look for associations. Initial third- or fourth-degree tear occurred in 2.8% women (5174/182445). The percentage of third- or fourth-degree tears in first vaginal births increased from 1% in 1997 to 4.9% in 2010. There was no difference in having a second pregnancy (adjusted Odds Ratio (aOR) 0.98 (99%CI 0.89 – 1.09)) or the median interpregnancy interval to second pregnancy (adjusted Hazard Ratio (aHR) 1.01 (99%CI 0.95 – 1.08)) after an initial third- or fourth-degree tear. Women were over four times more likely to have a repeat injury in a subsequent vaginal birth (n=149/333, aOR 4.68 (99% 3.52 – 6.23)) and were significantly more likely to have an elective caesarean section in their second pregnancy (n= 887/3333, 26.6%; 12.75 (11.29 – 14.40)). Increased maternal age and birthweight ≥4500g were risk factors for repeat injury. Third- and fourth-degree tears are increasing in Scotland. Women do not delay or avoid childbirth after initial third- or fourth-degree tear. However, women are more likely to have a repeat third- or fourth-degree tear or an elective caesarean section in the second pregnancy. Strategies to prevent third- or fourth-degree tears are needed.
- ANAL-SPHINCTER INJURIES