Postpartum Hemorrhage: What You Should Know

Posted On: November 17, 2016 By Nathan D. Fox, MD

Bleeding After Pregnancy

Immediately after delivery, all women lose blood when the placenta separates from the uterus. As the placenta starts to separate, open blood vessels in the uterus begin to bleed. After the placenta is delivered, the uterus contracts, closing off the open blood vessels. Since the amount of blood you have in your body increases by approximately 50 percent during pregnancy, you’re prepared to lose this blood.

However, some women experience too much bleeding after birth, which requires medical intervention. Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is excessive blood loss after pregnancy and occurs in about 6 percent of women.

Causes of Postpartum Hemorrhage

The most common cause of PPH is uterine atony, which is when the uterus does not contract well after delivery, leaving the open blood vessels to bleed. Other causes of PPH include cervical and vaginal lacerations, a retained portion of placenta, and a systemic bleeding abnormality.

PPH Treatment

If you are excessively bleeding after delivery, there are many steps your doctors will take to help restrict bleeding. Massaging the uterus will help it to contract and attempt to close the open blood vessels. In most cases, medication in addition to oxytocin works to stop the bleeding very quickly. If necessary, your doctor may insert her hand into your vagina and place the other hand on your lower stomach to compress the uterus between her hands. Medication combined with this method should slow the excessive bleeding.

However, if you continue to bleed, you will be examined for large lacerations that may be the source of bleeding. The doctor will also check for any retained fragments of the placenta. In some cases, if excessive PPH continues, you may need a blood transfusion. In any case, your blood pressure and pulse will frequently be monitored to analyze how your body is coping with postpartum hemorrhage.  Rarely, surgery is required to stop the bleeding.

Recovery After PPH

Depending on how much blood was lost, recovery may vary for each woman. Typically, you will develop anemia and will need time to recovery after delivery with plenty of fluids and rest. To help restore your health, you’ll most likely be prescribed prenatal vitamins and iron supplements.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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