Postpartum hemorrhage

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Postpartum hemorrhage
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 O72
ICD-9 666
MeSH D006473

Hemorrhage after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), is the loss of blood following childbirth resulting in hypovolemia or otherwise causing a woman to become symptomatic due to the blood loss.[1] Some practitioners measure PPH by a blood loss of greater than 500 ml of blood following vaginal birth, or 1000 ml of blood following cesarean section. It is one of the most common causes of perinatal maternal death in the developing world and is a major cause of maternal morbidity worldwide.


Causes of postpartum hemorrhage and their incidence[2]
Cause Incidence
Uterine atony 70%
Tauma 20%
Retained tissue 10%
Coagulopathy 1%

Causes of postpartum hemorrhage are uterine atony, trauma, retained placenta, and coagulopathy, commonly referred to as the "four Ts":[2]

  • Tone: uterine atony is the inability of the uterus to contract and may lead to continuous bleeding. Retained placental tissue and infection may contribute to uterine atony. Uterine atony is the most common cause of postpartum hemorrhage.[1]
  • Trauma: Injury to the birth canal which includes the uterus,cervix,vagina and the Perineum which can happen when the delivery is not monitored properly.The bleeding is substantial as all these organs become more vascular during pregnancy.
  • Tissue: retention of tissue from the placenta or fetus may lead to bleeding.
  • Thrombin: a bleeding disorder occurs when there is a failure of clotting, such as with diseases known as coagulopathies.



Intravenous oxytocin is the drug of choice for postpartum hemorrhage.[3]

Medical devices[edit]

The World Health Organization started recommending the use of a device called the Nonpneumatic Anti-Shock Garment (NASG) in 2012 for use in delivery activities outside of a hospital setting, the aim being to reverse shock in a mother suffering from obstetrical hemorrhage long enough to reach a hospital.[4]


A detailed stepwise management protocol has been introduced by the California Maternity Quality Care Collaborative.[5] It describes 4 stages of obstetrical hemorrhage after childbirth and its application reduces maternal mortality.[6]

A Cochrane review suggests that active management (use of uterotonic drugs, cord clamping and controlled cord traction) of the third stage of labour significantly reduces severe maternal bleeding and anemia compared to expectant management.[7] However, the review also found that active management increased the mother's blood pressure, afterpains, nausea, vomiting, and use of drugs for pain relief. In the active management group more women returned to hospital with bleeding after discharge, and there was also a reduction in birthweight due to infants having a lower blood volume. Another Cochrane database study,[8] focusing specifically on the timing of the administration of the uterotonic drug oxytocin as part of the active management of the third stage of labour, suggested that administering the drug before the expulsion of the placenta did not have any significant influence on the incidence of postpartum hemorrhage when compared to administering the drug after the expulsion of the placenta.


Methods of measuring blood loss associated with childbirth vary, complicating comparison of prevalence rates.[9] A systematic review reported the highest rates of PPH in Africa (27.5%), and the lowest in Oceania (7.2%), with an overall rate globally of 10.8%.[9] The rate in both Europe and North America was around 13%.[9] The rate is higher for multiple pregnancies (32.4% compared with 10.6% for singletons), and for first-time mothers (12.9% compared with 10.0% for women in subsequent pregnancies).[9] The overall rate of severe PPH (>1000 ml) was much lower at an overall rate of 2.8%, again with the highest rate in Africa (5.1%).[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Overview of postpartum hemorrhage". 
  2. ^ a b Anderson JM, Etches D (March 2007). "Prevention and management of postpartum hemorrhage". American Family Physician 75 (6): 875–82. PMID 17390600. 
  3. ^ WHO recommendations for the prevention and treatment of postpartum haemorrhage. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2012. ISBN 9789241548502. 
  4. ^ Craig, Elise (December 2013). "A Life Preserver For New Moms". Alpha. WIRED. p. 52. 
  5. ^ [1] CMQCC guidelines, accessed August 10, 2009
  6. ^ Barbieri RL. "Planning reduces the risk of maternal death. This tool helps". OBG Management (2009) 21 (8):8-10. 
  7. ^ Begley, C; Gyte G; Devane D; McGuire W; Weeks A (2011). "Active versus expectant management for women in the third stage of labour". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (11). doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007412.pub3. 
  8. ^ Soltani H, Hutchon DR, Poulose TA. (2010). Soltani, Hora, ed. "Timing of prophylactic uterotonics for the third stage of labour after vaginal birth". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD006173.pub2. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Calvert, C; Thomas, SL; Ronsmans, C; Wagner, KS; Adler, AJ; Filippi, V (2012). "Identifying regional variation in the prevalence of postpartum haemorrhage: a systematic review and meta-analysis.". PloS one 7 (7): e41114. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041114. PMID 22844432. 

External links[edit]