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      What is postpartum hemorrhage?

      Postnatal Care

      What is postpartum hemorrhage?

      Updated on 3 November 2023

      Besides dealing with postpartum anxiety, depression and numerous hormonal changes, women may also experience postpartum hemorrhage after childbirth. Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is serious bleeding from the vagina after childbirth. It is a life-threatening condition that can lead to the death of a person. PPH can happen soon after birth or until 84 days after during the postpartum period. Detection at an initial stage is life-saving.

      Vaginal bleeding is common after childbirth in case of any form of delivery however, if the amount of bleeding is over 32 ounces, it is considered to be postpartum hemorrhage. PPH can lead to severe complications. A favourable treatment outcome is seen when it is caught and treated early.

      What are the different types of postpartum hemorrhage?

      There are two types of postpartum hemorrhage. When bleeding occurs:

      • during the first 24 hours after delivery- Primary PPH
      • after 24 hours of delivery and for up to 12 weeks- Secondary PPH

      What are the symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage?

      Postpartum hemorrhage can often be confused with menstruation after delivery. When experiencing an unusual amount of bleeding, always consult a physician.

      Common symptoms of PPH are:

      • unstoppable bleeding
      • drop in blood pressure
      • increase in heart rate
      • decrease in red blood cell count level
      • swelling and pain around the vagina

      What causes postpartum hemorrhage?

      During the delivery, after the baby is pushed out, there is a third contraction. During this stage, the uterus resumes contraction and pushes the placenta out. This contraction puts pressure on blood vessels. When this pressure is not sufficient, it causes bleeding.

      Other causes of postpartum hemorrhage are:

      • when some placenta is left in the womb.
      • Tears in the vagina
      • Tear in the uterus
      • Bleeding into spaces adjacent to the vagina. This is called a hematoma.
      • Bleeding disorders

      How is PPH diagnosed?

      The healthcare workers first review the health history and perform a physical examination. Lab tests help confirm the diagnosis. Some of the lab tests taken are:

      • The quantity of blood lost
      • Measurement of blood pressure and pulse
      • RBC count
      • Checking the clotting factors in the blood

      How do doctors treat postpartum hemorrhage?

      The goal is to stop bleeding by finding the cause. The postpartum hemorrhage treatment includes:

      • Medicine or massage of the uterus to increase the contraction
      • Removing the pieces of the placenta from the uterus
      • Look for areas around the vagina and uterus for any injuries.
      • Ballooning or foley catheter to put pressure on the bleeding vessel. Even a clean sponge or cotton can be packed in the uterus if the others mentioned are not there.
      • Open the stomach to look for the cause of the bleeding.
      • Using sutures, placing special gel, glue,
      • IV fluids, blood products, and blood are given to prevent shock.

      What medications treat postpartum hemorrhage?

      Medications for postpartum hemorrhage treatment are given to contract the uterus. This is given when inadequate contraction is the reason for the bleeding. The common drug is oxytocin, methylergonovine, and prostaglandins.

      Who is affected by this?

      Women with problems in the placenta during pregnancy are at risk of developing PPH. Some other causes are:

      • numerous pregnancies
      • Twins or triplets
      • birthing large baby
      • a lot of amniotic fluid
      • obesity
      • Infection
      • prolonged labour

      How do you recover from a postpartum hemorrhage?

      The path of recovery is different for everyone. Recovery depends on the volume of blood loss that occurred. Postpartum care is important to help you recover by doing the following:

      • eating healthy
      • resting
      • drinking a lot of water
      • taking iron supplements as recommended by the doctor.


      1. What are the possible complications of postpartum hemorrhage?

      Ans. PPH can cause complications like an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and decreased blood flow. These symptoms can affect all the vital organs of the body, causing shock. Death can occur when not treated.

      2. What can be done to prevent postpartum hemorrhage?

      The best way is by identifying risk factors before pregnancy. Persons should share their complete medical histories. Routine medications can be lifesaving.

      3. How common is postpartum hemorrhage?

      Ans. About 1 in 5 women experience this among a group of 100 women.

      4. Can you have another baby after a postpartum hemorrhage?

      Ans. Yes, but there is also a chance that PPH can occur again. Hence, individuals should always provide a complete medical history prior to delivery.

      5. How can PPH prevent haemorrhage during childbirth?

      Ans. It is always better to get admitted in a setting where emergency care is available. Early care can be lifesaving and lead to a faster recovery.

      6. Can postpartum haemorrhage lead to death?

      Ans. Yes, it is a fatal condition when left untreated. Persons lose blood very quickly, leading to a very rapid fall in BP. This is called shock, and it can lead to death.

      PPH is a critical condition that requires immediate treatment. When experiencing any severe bleeding, it is important to contact the physician. False alarms are okay; it is better to be safe than sorry. Other signs are dizziness, feeling faint, and blurred vision. Early diagnosis and prompt management can be lifesaving. It is important to tell the doctors about any past experience with PPH and provide a full medical history.

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      Written by

      Priyanka Verma

      Priyanka is an experienced editor & content writer with great attention to detail. Mother to a 10-year-old, she's skille

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