Postpartum hemorrhage is a term used to describe excessive bleeding after a birth. It is more common in Cesarean births. Most postpartum hemorrhage occurs right after delivery.
Postpartum hemorrhage is very serious and can cause a severe drop in a woman’s blood pressure that may lead to shock or worse if not treated. However, if it is detected and treated quickly, it can lead to a full recovery.
The symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis. If a woman experiences these symptoms shortly after birth, she should get help immediately:
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Increased heart rate
- Swelling and pain in the vaginal area
Here are some of the most common conditions that contribute to postpartum hemorrhage:
- Placental Abruption: When the placenta detaches from the uterus too early
- Placenta Previa: When the placenta covers or is near the cervical opening
- Over distended Uterus: The uterus because too large, due to too much amniotic fluid or a large baby
- High blood pressure
- Previously giving birth many times
- Giving birth to twins, triplets or more babies
- Prolonged labor
- Medications that induce labor or stop contractions
- Use of forceps or vacuum during delivery
- Use of general anesthesia
Postpartum hemorrhage may also be due to other factors such as:
- Placenta Accreta: When the placenta abnormally attaches to the inside of the uterus
- Placenta Increta: When the placenta invades the uterine muscles.
- Placenta Percreta: When the placental tissues go into the uterus and ruptures it
- Tears in the cervix, vagina or uterine blood vessels
- Blood clotting issues
Treating Postpartum Hemorrhage
Replacing lost blood and fluids is critical and must happen quickly. Often a woman will receive intravenous (IV) fluids as well as a blood transfusion to help prevent shock. Other treatments vary, depending on your unique circumstances. Your treatment may also include:
- Medication or massage, to stimulate contractions
- Removing any placenta remaining in the uterus
- Compressing the bleeding by packing the uterus with sponges
- Tying off of bleeding blood vessels
- Surgery to find the cause of the bleeding
- Hysterectomy: surgical removal of the uterus. In most cases, this is a last resort.