Tackling Postpartum Hemorrhage Head-On

A smiling woman - Postpartum Hemorrhage

Bringing a new life into the world is a magical and exhilarating experience. But, amidst the joy, it’s crucial to be aware of potential complications that can arise during childbirth. One such complication is postpartum hemorrhage, which requires immediate attention. This article is a must-read for all expectant parents, as it provides comprehensive insights into postpartum hemorrhage, including its causes, symptoms, and available treatments. Let’s dive into this crucial topic to ensure that all parents-to-be are well-informed about this condition and can take the necessary steps to ensure a safe and healthy delivery.

Related: Top 19 Obstetrical Complications

Postpartum Hemorrhage: Understanding the Condition

Postpartum hemorrhage refers to excessive bleeding (more than 500 ml) that occurs after childbirth, typically within the first 24 hours, but can also transpire up to six weeks postpartum.

The uterus often contracts after childbirth and pushes the placenta out. These contractions aid in applying pressure to the blood arteries around where the placenta was connected after the placenta has been delivered. These blood veins bleed easily if the uterus does not contract firmly enough. The most frequent reason for postpartum bleeding is this. Bleeding is also probable if small parts of the placenta remain connected.

It is a severe medical emergency that requires prompt medical intervention to prevent life-threatening consequences. PPH can arise due to a variety of reasons, including uterine atony, retained placenta, genital tract trauma, and coagulation disorders.

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The most common cause of Postpartum Hemorrhage is uterine atony, which is the failure of the uterus to contract after delivery.

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Different Types of Postpartum Hemorrhage

Postpartum hemorrhage can be classified into primary and secondary types. Let’s explore each type in detail:

Primary Postpartum Hemorrhage

Primary PPH occurs within the first 24 hours after childbirth. It typically happens due to issues related to the uterus, placenta, or birth canal. The following are the two primary causes of primary postpartum hemorrhage:

Uterine Atony

Uterine atony refers to the inability of the uterus to contract effectively after childbirth. This condition is responsible for the majority of cases of primary postpartum hemorrhage. When the uterus fails to contract adequately, it cannot compress the blood vessels, leading to continuous bleeding.

Retained Placental Tissue

Sometimes, after delivery, fragments of the placenta or membranes may remain inside the uterus. This retained placental tissue can prevent the uterus from contracting properly, resulting in excessive bleeding.

Secondary Postpartum Hemorrhage

Secondary PPH occurs between 24 hours and six weeks after childbirth. Unlike primary PPH, which is primarily caused by issues during delivery, secondary PPH is often related to complications during the postpartum period. The following are the two primary causes of secondary PPH:

Subinvolution of the Uterus

Subinvolution of the uterus refers to the delayed return of the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size. This condition can lead to persistent bleeding and is often associated with infections or retained placental tissue.

Uterine Inversion

Uterine inversion is a rare but severe complication in which the uterus turns inside out. It can cause profuse bleeding and requires immediate medical intervention.

Causes of Postpartum Hemorrhage

Postpartum hemorrhage can be caused by several factors, each playing a significant role in triggering excessive bleeding. Understanding the causes can help identify the condition promptly and seek appropriate medical assistance. Here are the primary causes of PPH:

Uterine Atony

Uterine atony, characterized by the inability of the uterine muscles to contract effectively, is the leading cause of PPH. When the uterus fails to contract adequately after childbirth, it cannot effectively close off the blood vessels, leading to excessive bleeding.

Retained Placenta

In some cases, the placenta or fragments of it may remain in the uterus following childbirth. This can prevent the uterus from contracting fully, resulting in PPH.

Genital Tract Trauma

Tears or injuries to the genital tract, including the cervix, vagina, or perineum, can lead to PPH. These injuries can occur during a difficult delivery or when medical interventions such as forceps or vacuum extraction are necessary.

Coagulation Disorders

Certain medical conditions or medications can affect the body’s ability to form blood clots, increasing the risk of excessive bleeding after childbirth. Coagulation disorders, such as von Willebrand disease or thrombocytopenia, can contribute to heavy bleeding after delivery (PPH).

Symptoms of Postpartum Hemorrhage

Identifying the symptoms of PPH is vital for early detection and timely medical intervention. Prompt recognition of these signs can potentially save lives. Here are the key symptoms to watch out for:

Excessive or Prolonged Bleeding

One of the primary indicators of postpartum hemorrhage is excessive bleeding that goes beyond the normal postpartum period. If you find yourself soaking through more than one sanitary pad per hour or passing large blood clots, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

Rapid Heart Rate

An increased heart rate, also known as tachycardia, can be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage. If you notice your heart racing or feel palpitations, it is essential to notify your healthcare provider promptly.

Low Blood Pressure

Postpartum hemorrhage can cause a drop in blood pressure, leading to dizziness, lightheadedness, and even fainting. If you experience these symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention.

Pale Complexion

Excessive bleeding can result in a pale or blanched complexion. If you notice a significant change in your skin color, particularly becoming unusually pale, it may be a sign of postpartum hemorrhage.

Shortness of Breath

Postpartum hemorrhage can lead to a decrease in the amount of oxygen circulating in the body, causing shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing. If you find it hard to catch your breath, it is important to seek medical assistance promptly.

Abdominal Pain or Swelling

Persistent abdominal pain or swelling beyond the usual discomfort associated with childbirth may indicate postpartum hemorrhage. If you experience severe or worsening abdominal pain, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional.

Treatment Options for Postpartum Hemorrhage

Timely and appropriate treatment is crucial in managing postpartum hemorrhage effectively. The treatment plan may vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the bleeding. Here are the common treatment options for PPH:

Medications to Stimulate Uterine Contractions

In cases of uterine atony, medications such as oxytocin or misoprostol may be administered to promote uterine contractions and control bleeding. These medications help the uterus contract and close off blood vessels, reducing the risk of excessive bleeding.

Manual Removal of the Placenta

If postpartum hemorrhage is caused by a retained placenta or placental fragments, a healthcare provider may need to manually remove them to facilitate proper uterine contraction and control bleeding.

Surgical Interventions

In severe cases of postpartum hemorrhage, surgical interventions may be necessary. Procedures such as uterine artery ligation, where the blood vessels supplying the uterus are tied off, or a hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus, may be performed to stop the bleeding.

Blood Transfusion

If the mother has experienced significant blood loss, a blood transfusion may be required to restore blood volume and replace lost red blood cells.

Interventional Radiology Procedures

In certain cases, interventional radiology procedures, such as uterine artery embolization, may be utilized. This procedure involves blocking the blood vessels supplying the uterus to stop the bleeding.

Ongoing Monitoring and Supportive Care

Throughout the treatment process, close monitoring of vital signs, blood pressure, and blood loss will be crucial. Additional supportive care, such as intravenous fluids and pain management, may also be provided to ensure the mother’s overall well-being.

Related: The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact with Newborn


Postpartum hemorrhage is a serious condition that requires immediate attention and medical intervention. By understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and being aware of available treatment options, expectant parents can be better prepared to address this potential complication. Timely identification and management of postpartum hemorrhage can greatly reduce the risk of life-threatening consequences. Remember, always consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and care during pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period.

Related: The Role of Doulas in Pregnancy and Childbirth

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Postpartum Hemorrhage Common?

Postpartum hemorrhage can occur in approximately 3% to 5% of deliveries.

Can Postpartum Hemorrhage occur after a Cesarean Section?

Yes, postpartum hemorrhage can occur after both vaginal and cesarean deliveries. It is important to be vigilant and seek medical attention if any signs of excessive bleeding or other symptoms of postpartum hemorrhage are observed.

Are there any Risk Factors that increase the Likelihood of Experiencing Postpartum Hemorrhage?

Yes, certain factors can increase the risk of postpartum hemorrhage. These include a history of postpartum hemorrhage in previous pregnancies, multiple pregnancies (such as twins or triplets), obesity, and certain medical conditions such as preeclampsia or placental abnormalities. It’s important to discuss these risk factors with your healthcare provider during prenatal care to ensure appropriate monitoring and management.

How can Postpartum Hemorrhage be Prevented?

While postpartum hemorrhage cannot always be completely prevented, there are measures that can help reduce the risk. These include regular prenatal care to identify and manage any underlying conditions, discussing previous birth experiences and complications with your healthcare provider, and ensuring access to skilled medical professionals and emergency care during labor and delivery.

Can Breastfeeding help prevent Postpartum Hemorrhage?

Breastfeeding has been found to stimulate the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes uterine contractions. These contractions can help reduce bleeding and facilitate the return of the uterus to its pre-pregnancy state. However, while breastfeeding may have some benefits in preventing postpartum hemorrhage, it is not a foolproof method and should not be relied upon as the sole preventive measure.

How long does it take to Recover from Postpartum Hemorrhage?

Recovery from postpartum hemorrhage can vary depending on the severity of the bleeding and the treatment provided. In mild cases, where prompt medical intervention is received, the recovery period may be relatively shorter. However, in more severe cases or when surgical interventions are required, the recovery process may take longer. It is important to follow the guidance of your healthcare provider, attend follow-up appointments, and take care of your physical and emotional well-being during the recovery period.

Can Postpartum Hemorrhage have Long-Term Complications?

In some cases, postpartum hemorrhage can lead to long-term complications. These may include anemia due to significant blood loss, infection in the reproductive organs, or damage to the uterus. It is crucial to seek appropriate medical care and follow-up to address any potential complications and ensure proper healing.

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Hi, I'm Sushil Singh, a devoted dad and guiding voice in the transformative journey of parenting, based in Mumbai. Drawing from a decade of firsthand experience and extensive research, I offer authentic insights into prepartum, pregnancy, and postpartum stages at Pregnancy Boss. From joyous milestones to challenging uncertainties, my mission is to provide reliable support and practical advice, helping you navigate this profound journey with confidence. Let's embrace the beauty and complexities of parenthood together. Connect for guidance or shared stories. Cheers to our shared path! 🥂 Social Medial Profiles: Quora Pinterest Twitter Facebook

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