Postpartum hemorrhage occurs when there is severe and prolonged bleeding of 500ml or more that occurs within 24 hours after giving birth. This often occurs after the placenta has been delivered and it may be more common in women who’ve had a cesarean rather than vaginal birth. Of course, there are steps your OBGYN can take during the third stage of labor to reduce a woman’s risk for postpartum hemorrhage (PPH).
Signs of PPH
It’s important to recognize the signs of PPH so you can call your OBGYN or 911 to get immediate medical attention. Some signs of PPH include,
- Heavy vaginal bleeding that won’t stop
- A drop in blood pressure (a sign of shock)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pale and/or clammy skin
- Pain or swelling around the vagina
PPH is a life-threatening condition, so you mustn’t ignore these signs after giving birth.
Risk Factors for PPH
While PPH can happen without warning, there are risk factors that can predispose women to develop PPH. If you’ve had PPH in the past, you are more likely to have it in the future. PPH is also more common among Hispanic and Asian women.
You may also be more likely to develop PPH if you have any of these health problems,
- Uterine atony: When the muscles of the uterus don’t contract or tighten there is nothing to stop the bleeding
- Uterine inversion: When the uterus turns inside out during childbirth
- Ruptured uterus: When the uterus tears during delivery (this is rare)
Other conditions and factors that can increase your risk include,
- Conditions that impact the placenta such as placenta increta or placenta previa
- Undergoing a C-section
- Undergoing general anesthesia (often for a C-section)
- Medicines that induce labor such as Pitocin
- Vaginal tearing during childbirth
- Fast labor (less than six hours if this isn’t your first child) or augmented labor (more than 14 hours if this is your first baby)
- Placental infections
- Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Blood conditions
If you have questions or concerns about childbirth or delivery, know that your OBGYN is always here to answer any of your questions. Talk through the possibility of PPH with your obstetrician so you can discuss beforehand, the steps that are going to be taken to protect both you and your baby during labor and delivery.