Women normally bleed during delivery, but losing a large quantity of blood can cause problems. The womb is supposed to shrink as the baby leaves. This causes the blood vessels in it to squeeze and prevent so much blood from reaching it. But when this fails to happen, heavy bleeding occurs.
Bleeding can happen soon after delivery or up to six weeks later. If bleeding starts at home, the doctor must be informed straight away.
What can be done?
Apart from the natural adjustments the body makes, there are a number of things that can be done to help prevent heavy bleeding after childbirth. After delivery of the baby, the placenta (afterbirth) follows. The umbilical cord (which connects the placenta to the baby) is gently pulled on, clamped and cut at this stage.
Drugs like oxytocin, ergometrine and carboprost may also be given to help the womb shrink. All these however, still fail to prevent heavy bleeding in a small percentage of women, but the results are usually better than in situations where these weren’t done at all.
A tummy massage after delivery may also help the womb shrink to tis normal size but it is uncertain whether this also helps prevent heavy bleeding.
Breastfeeding soon after giving birth may likely prevent bleeding in addition to being good for the baby.
Blood transfusions may be needed if the bleeding continues for a long time.
Occasionally, a surgery is needed to stop the bleeding, such as when it is due to a placenta that refused to come out on its own.
What will happen to me?
Bleeding after delivery is not usually dangerous. But rarely, serious conditions may occur and the effects seen much later in the future.