November 7, 2019
Giving birth is an amazing and life-changing experience. The joy and relief of being handed your new baby is indescribable. However, on some occasions there can be complications either during or shortly after birth.
What is a Post-Partum Haemorrhage?
Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) is a rare but serious complication following birth. It is one of the major causes of maternal death in both developed and developing countries. It is referred to as primary post-partum haemorrhage if it occurs within 24 hours of birth and delayed or secondary post-partum haemorrhage if it occurs after the first 24 hours up to 6 weeks post birth.
PPH can vary in severity. According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, PPH is defined as minor if it involves the loss of 500-1000 millilitres of blood and major in cases where more than 1000 millilitres is lost. Major PPH is further divided into moderate (involving 1000-2000ml) or severe (more than 2000ml).
There are several causes of PPH. These include the failure of the uterus to contract following delivery; damage or trauma to the uterus; retained placenta or a blood-clotting disorder.
There are certain risk factors associated with PPH. There is an increased risk of PPH when labour has been induced; in assisted deliveries; when the baby is large or there has been a prolonged 3rd stage or a delay in delivering the placenta. Women are also at an increased risk if there is a history of PPH or a pre-existing blood clotting disorder.
Recovering from PPH can take time. It can leave the woman suffering with anaemia; pain and extreme fatigue at a time when they are trying to cope with the demands of caring for a new-born. In cases of severe blood loss, it can cause long term conditions requiring ongoing treatment and management. In the most serious cases it can result in hysterectomy; loss of fertility or even death.
PPH can also leave the woman psychologically affected by what may have been a very traumatic experience. It can lead to difficulties with bonding with the new baby and establishing breastfeeding. It can leave women fearful of future pregnancies and anxious about giving birth again.
PPH can be extremely frightening and distressing; both for the woman and her birth partner. In cases of primary PPH; the new mum and her partner will be enjoying the first few moments with their new baby when suddenly things can change rapidly, as it becomes an emergency.
The room may suddenly fill with people and it may not be clear what is going on. There may be a need for emergency surgery and the woman may be rushed to theatre. It can be very traumatic for all involved.
The celebrity Gemma Atkinson gave birth to her baby daughter in July 2019. She wrote candidly about her difficult labour and the fact she suffered a serious haemorrhage shortly after delivery: ‘I don’t remember much other than having around 9 doctors in the room, some injecting me, hooking me to drips, physically pulling clots out of me’.
She also acknowledged how traumatic it was for her partner witnessing what was happening.
It is very important that the medical team communicate effectively with the woman and her birthing partner. This can be difficult in sudden emergency situations, but it can make a big difference when it comes to processing what has happened.
Secondary PPH is equally as distressing. Quite often secondary PPH will happen following discharge from hospital. The woman may be at home with her new baby when it happens without any assistance or the assurance of having a medical team around her.
There are key steps that can be taken to avoid or minimise the risk of PPH. It is essential that the woman is adequately monitored pre-birth; during labour and post-delivery. There is a need to carefully check the placenta to ensure it is complete and to accurately monitor blood loss post-delivery.
If PPH does occur there should be an opportunity for the woman (and her birthing partner) to discuss what has happened with the appropriate medical staff when she feels ready to. Understanding what happened and why it happened can take some of the fear and confusion out of the woman’s memory of the event.
We are Clinical Negligence specialists
Here at Spencers Solicitors we have a specialist Clinical Negligence team who can provide advice to you if you have been affected by PPH or birth complications.
Call us today on 08000 93 00 94 to speak with one of our advisors, or if you prefer, complete an Online Claim Enquiry and we'll call you back.
About the Author
Mary is a Solicitor within our Serious Injury Team.
Mary joined the business in 1997 after graduating from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne with a degree in English Literature. Mary subsequently successfully completed a Graduate Diploma in Law and the Legal Practice Course whilst working full time. Mary qualified as a Solicitor in 2007 and has worked within the Serious Injury Team for over ten years dealing with high value, complex injury claims. Mary has extensive experience dealing with a wide variety of claims including catastrophic injury claims, accidents involving fatalities and cases involving serious orthopaedic and psychological injuries.