Postpartum hemorrhage is more bleeding than normal after the birth of a baby. About 1 in 100 to 5 in 100 women have postpartum hemorrhage. It is more likely with a cesarean birth. It most often happens after the placenta is delivered, but it can also happen later.
Once a baby is delivered, the uterus normally contracts and pushes out the placenta. After the placenta is delivered, these contractions help put pressure on the bleeding vessels in the area where the placenta was attached. If the uterus does not contract strongly enough, these blood vessels bleed freely. This is the most common cause of postpartum hemorrhage. If small pieces of the placenta stay attached, bleeding is also likely.
Postpartum hemorrhage may also be caused by:
Some women are at greater risk for postpartum hemorrhage than others. Conditions that may increase the risk include:
These are the most common symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage:
The symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage may look like other health conditions. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Your healthcare provider will review your health history and do a physical exam. Lab tests often help with the diagnosis. Other tests may include:
The aim of treatment of postpartum hemorrhage is to find and stop the cause of the bleeding as soon as possible. Treatment may include:
Replacing lost blood and fluids is important in treating postpartum hemorrhage. You may quickly be given IV (intravenous) fluids, blood, and blood products to prevent shock. Oxygen may also help.
Postpartum hemorrhage can be quite serious. But when your provider quickly finds and treats the cause of bleeding, you often will be able to recover fully.
Losing lots of blood quickly can cause a severe drop in your blood pressure. This may lead to shock and death if not treated.
It’s important to know before delivery what puts you at risk for postpartum hemorrhage. It is important to have emergency care available in case it is needed at the time of delivery and after birth. Early care can reduce the amount of blood loss.
Most cases of postpartum hemorrhage occur at delivery or soon after. But you may bleed heavily after you go home from the hospital. If this happens, call your healthcare provider right away.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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