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Understanding Postpartum Bleeding: What to Expect After Giving Birth

February 14, 2019

New mum or expecting? Learn everything you need to know about the risk of bleeding after birth.

excess vaginal bleeding after delivery

Experiencing excess vaginal bleeding after the delivery of your baby is one of the most frightening aspects of your pregnancy that can happen. One of the challenges of good medical care is keeping women safe from this problem which is also known as postpartum haemorrhage (PPH).

In the first of this 3-part series, we look at the meaning of postpartum haemorrhage.

Postpartum haemorrhage means excessive vaginal bleeding (haemorrhage) that happens after (post), birth (partum).

Therefore, PPH refers to all types of abnormal bleeding that happens after delivery up to the period 6 weeks after birth.

Normal vs Excess Vaginal Bleeding After Delivery

All women lose some amount of blood during the process of giving birth.

This amount can be different – depending on the type of delivery.

The average amount of blood loss after the vaginal delivery of a baby is about 500 ml.

The amount increases to about 1000 ml after a cesarean section.[1]

Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) occurs when the blood loss is more than these amounts.

It is important that women who are at risk of excessive postpartum haemorrhage give birth at health facilities where they can be monitored for at least 24 hours after delivery

This helps to ensure that their bleeding pattern is normal.

How Frequently Does PPH Happen?

Postpartum haemorrhage is a common cause of death of new mothers in developing countries, including Nigeria.[3],[4]

Approximately 830 women die globally from pregnancy or childbirth-related complications daily.[5] 

Most of these deaths happen when people have little access to health care because they cannot afford it, or the necessary quality is not available.

However, PPH can occur in places where women are richer or can access better quality health care.

In both instances, bleeding after birth can be prevented in the majority of cases.[4],[6]

By 2015, deaths from maternal causes in developing countries were 239 per 100 000 live births, comparable to 12 per 100 000 live births in developed countries. [5]

Why Quality Care Matters

However, when we look at the quality of health care available in both settings, the reason for the differences in death rates is clear

Almost all women in developed countries have at least four antenatal care visits and are attended by a skilled health worker during childbirth.

They also receive postpartum care.

In 2015, only 40% of all pregnant women in developing countries had the recommended antenatal care visits.[5]

Lack of adequate care during pregnancy and after childbirth contributes to the high death rates seen in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sadly, these are not just figures but maternal lives lost due to preventable circumstances.

Death due to bleeding after delivery is a leading cause of maternal deaths globally.

But it also accounts for 25% of all deaths annually. [1]

Have you experienced excessive vaginal bleeding after delivery? Or is it something you are worried about?

Let us know in the comments section below.

More Reading:

1.  Postpartum hemorrhage: incidence, risk factors, and outcomes in a low-resource setting.  
2. Pregnancy, Acute Postpartum Hemorrhage. 
3. A 10 year autopsy-based study of maternal mortality in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, Nigeria. 
4. Reducing maternal deaths in a low resource setting in Nigeria. 
5. World Health Organization, 2018. Maternal Mortality. 
6. Postpartum Bleeding: What To Expect After Giving Birth. 

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, please contact a health practitioner or reach us directly

Image Credit @Canva

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