Postpartum hemorrhage is when a woman loses too much blood after giving birth. It is called primary when it happens in the first 24 hours after giving birth. It is called secondary (or delayed) when it happens between 24 hours to 6 weeks after giving birth.
Some blood loss is normal. Too much blood loss can be serious and put you at risk.
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This health problem can be caused by:
In rare cases, uterine inversion or uterine rupture may also be a cause.
Risk factors include problems that would lead to this condition, such as:
The main symptom is heavy blood loss after having a child. You may also have swelling and pain in the pelvic area.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms. The doctor will check for bleeding.
Your blood will be tested.
Pictures will be taken. This can be done with an ultrasound.
Treatment is based on how much you are bleeding. You may have:
You may need IV fluids or an oxygen mask. If you have lost a lot of blood, a blood transfusion may be needed.
A massage technique called bimanual uterine massage can help control bleeding. A doctor or nurse will place one hand in your vagina to push on your womb, while the other hand pushes down on your womb from your belly. This action will cause a relaxed womb to contract and slow the bleeding.
You may be given medicine to make the womb contract.
In some cases, surgery may be needed to stop bleeding. The type of surgery used will depend on the source of your bleeding. For example, if bleeding is caused by trauma, it will be stitched.
Make sure you are closely watched during the third stage of labor when the placenta is delivered.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
American Pregnancy Association
Women's Health Matters
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin: Clinical Management Guidelines for Obstetrician-Gynecologists Number 76, October 2006: postpartum hemorrhage. Obstet Gynecol. 2006;108(4):1039-1047. Reaffirmed 2015.
Anderson JM, Etches D. Prevention and management of postpartum hemorrhage. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(6):875-882.
Postpartum hemorrhage. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114247/Postpartum-hemorrhage . Updated January 24, 2018. Accessed August 9, 2018.
Last reviewed May 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 8/9/2018