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What Is Postpartum Hemorrhage (PPH) and Why Does It Happen?

Woman holding her pregnant stomach

When a woman has excessive bleeding after childbirth, it is called postpartum hemorrhage or PPH. The normal process of childbirth involves some level of blood loss for the mother. However, in cases of postpartum hemorrhage, the bleeding is so severe that it can cause a severe drop in blood pressure, resulting in life-threatening conditions for the mother. PPH is a serious medical situation, and it can result in organ damage or death if it is not managed properly by the mother’s medical team.

What Is Postpartum Hemorrhage?

During childbirth, a certain amount of blood loss is expected. According to an article by the March of Dimes, women usually lose an average of half a quart of blood for a vaginal birth or about a full quart of blood during childbirth for cesarean delivery, also called a c-section. In either situation, when there is total blood loss of more than 32 ounces after delivery, it is considered to be postpartum hemorrhage according to the Cleveland Clinic.  Postpartum hemorrhage is often a serious medical emergency, and it is estimated to occur in as many as 10% percent of deliveries.

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What Are the Signs of Postpartum Hemorrhage?

Most cases of postpartum hemorrhage occur within 24 hours of delivery, but it can occur later, even 12 weeks after birth. Postpartum hemorrhage can be difficult for some mothers to identify because a certain amount of bleeding is expected after giving birth, and because serious postpartum hemorrhage can occur weeks after the mother has gone home. It is important that expecting mothers and new mothers understand the symptoms of PPH.

According to Dr. Karin Fox, of Texas Children’s Hospital, “After giving birth, some postpartum bleeding will typically continue for two to three weeks. It should be like a period or less and gradually resolve over time. If you develop a fever, start passing clots or soak through several pads within an hour or two, you need to contact your physician, especially if you start experiencing dizziness, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations.”

There are other tell-tale signs that you contact your doctor about,  including postpartum bleeding that is accompanied by blurry vision, nausea, and vomiting, among others.

Why Does Postpartum Hemorrhage Happen?

The placenta is the maternal organ that sends oxygen and nutrients to the baby from the mother’s bloodstream through the umbilical cord. After the baby is delivered, contractions from the uterus continue, and they typically help to expel the placenta and compress the site where it was attached to stop the flow of blood. If that doesn’t happen properly, the site where the placenta was attached to the uterus can continue to bleed, resulting in postpartum hemorrhaging.

Many instances of postpartum hemorrhage are unavoidable, but some women have risk factors for PPH, and the medical staff has a responsibility to plan for these conditions.

How Do You Prevent Postpartum Hemorrhage?

The best way for healthcare providers to prevent postpartum hemorrhage is to identify those women who are at high risk for postpartum hemorrhage before delivery. According to the Cleveland Clinic, doctors should be aware of the following risk factors:

  • Uterine atony
  • Uterine trauma
  • Retained placental tissue
  • Blood clotting condition (thrombin)

If you or a loved one experienced a serious injury or death due to PPH, and one of these risk factors was ignored, it could make the doctor or hospital legally liable for the economic and non-economic damages that result.

Is Postpartum Hemorrhage Medical Malpractice?

Postpartum hemorrhage is a serious medical issue with potentially life-threatening consequences. In cases where postpartum hemorrhage results in a serious injury or the death of the mother, it requires a professional evaluation to determine if the injury or death was avoidable. Medical malpractice can be established if there were known risk factors that were not properly addressed. There can also be a liability if bleeding occurred and the established practice of medical intervention was not delivered or if it was delivered too late. If you have a question regarding a postpartum hemorrhage or a birth injury, the doctor or hospital might not be willing to discuss all the facts of the situation transparently. To get the truth, and to get financial recovery for the expensive cost of a medical injury, contact Brown & Barron online or by calling F:P:Sub:Phone} for a free, no-obligation review of your case.

Contact Brown & Barron online today to schedule a free case review.