Although childbirth is a natural process, it can be fraught with risks, particularly for women with special medical conditions and complications. Among the risks physicians and nurses have to be on the lookout for is excessive blood loss, or postpartum hemorrhage, which is actually a leading cause of death for women in childbirth.
The risk of excessive blood loss lies largely in not catching it in time, but there are certain conditions and circumstances that put a woman at greater risk. According to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, these conditions and circumstances include abnormalities in the placenta, over-distended uterus, multiple pregnancy, prolonged labor, use of medications to induce labor, general anesthesia, use of forceps or vacuum-assisted delivery, and blood-clotting disorders.
When a woman is at risk of excessive bleeding in childbirth, it is the duty of the woman’s physician to take appropriate steps to address that risk, both before, during and after childbirth. What exactly is done in this area depends on the specific risks a woman faces because of her unique situation. Physicians need to pay attention to the warning signs—which include uncontrolled bleeding, decreased blood pressure and red blood cell count, increased heart rate, and swelling/pain in the vaginal and perineal area—and take appropriate, timely action. Treatment may include medication, uterine massage and compression, and surgical solutions like laparotomy or perhaps hysterectomy.
Doctors who fail to take reasonable steps to address the risks of excessive bleeding in a pregnant woman risk serious injury or death for the woman. In our next post, we’ll take a look at what one local medical institution is doing in this area.