We celebrate and anticipate birth so much, we often forget – it’s risky business. Pain and blood loss are inevitable. And hemorrhaging after birth, though rare, is possible.
Below, we’ll explain what postpartum hemorrhaging is and how it happens. We’ll also tell you what you need to sue a doctor when negligence leads to hemorrhaging.
What is Hemorrhaging After Birth?
Hemorrhaging after birth, or postpartum hemorrhaging (PPH), is excessive bleeding after childbirth. It can be life-threatening.
There is always some loss of blood during delivery. Women lose about half a quart during vaginal delivery and 1 quart after a C-section. But a true hemorrhage means losing an excessive amount, defined as:
- Loss of more than 500 milliliters (or about 17 fluid ounces) of blood after a vaginal delivery.
- Loss of more than 1000 milliliters (or about 34 fluid ounces) of blood after a cesarean section.
There are two types of PPH:
- Primary. This occurs within the first 24 hours after childbirth.
- Secondary. This occurs between 24 hours and six weeks after childbirth
According to March of Dimes data, hemorrhaging after birth only happens to 1 to 5 percent of mothers. When it does occur, it most often happens right after delivery.
Causes of Postpartum Hemorrhaging
After the baby leaves the womb, the uterus contracts. These contractions push out the placenta. They also help put pressure on blood vessels at the place where the placenta was attached to the uterus.
If the contractions are too weak, those vessels may bleed too much. This is the main cause of hemorrhaging after birth. Another reason for bleeding is that small pieces of the placenta stay attached.
But it’s not always as simple as the explanation above. Postpartum hemorrhaging can stem from a variety of factors, including:
- Tears or injuries to the birth canal or uterus
- Placental problems
- Clotting disorders
- Other medical conditions
- Medical malpractice
Risk Factors for Hemorrhaging After Birth
Women are at higher risk for PPH if they already experienced PPH in a previous pregnancy.
Other risk factors include:
- Multiple pregnancies (such as twins or higher-order multiples)
- Prolonged labor
- Use of certain medications
- Certain medical conditions that affect blood clotting.
- Preeclampsia and high blood pressure.
Consequences and Treatment of PPH
Hemorrhaging after birth can have serious consequences. They call blood the “liquid of life” for a reason. We can’t live without it! Since PPH involves a major loss of blood, it can be fatal.
Other consequences may include:
- Severe anemia
- Shock (when organs don’t get enough blood flow)
- Organ damage
- Brain damage
Can doctors manage PPH and help a mother make a full recovery? In most cases, yes. But prompt and appropriate medical intervention is crucial. Doctors have to make quick decisions about which treatment methods to apply.
Possible treatment methods include:
- Uterine massage
- Administration of medications to help the uterus contract
- Fluid replacement
- Blood transfusions
- In severe cases, surgical interventions (uterine artery ligation, embolization, or hysterectomy).
Black Women are at Higher Risk for PPH
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, black women are more likely to experience severe hemorrhaging after birth than white women. Also, they are more likely to die from postpartum hemorrhaging than white women.
There are several reasons why this may be the case:
- Hospitals in black-serving communities often provide lower-quality maternal care
- Racial discrimination is still prevalent in many hospitals
- Some Black populations have limited access to healthcare
- Socioeconomic disadvantage and discrimination make pregnancy riskier at an earlier age for Black women
Adequate health care should be available for all. Failing to treat a mother because of racial bias constitutes medical malpractice. If your injury is due to negligence, it’s your right to seek compensation. To do that, contact a birth injury lawyer to help you file a postpartum hemorrhaging lawsuit.
Can I Sue for Postpartum Hemorrhaging?
In some cases, doctors fail to manage PPH, and mothers are severely injured. Sometimes this happens because providers don’t monitor mothers when they’re at higher risk for PPH. For example, a doctor might be aware that a mother has high blood pressure but doesn’t monitor it, leading to PPH.
A doctor’s negligence may also be the direct cause of hemorrhaging after birth. For example, let’s say your doctor orders an unnecessary C-section which leads to excessive bleeding. Or, an anesthesiologist might make a grave mistake when administering general anesthesia.
You may be able to sue your healthcare provider for PPH if the following basic elements are true:
- Your PPH led to severe injury or death of a loved one.
- A hospital or doctor’s negligent action or inaction caused PPH.
- The statute of limitations in your state hasn’t expired. (Most states give you just 2-3 years to sue from the time you were injured).
If you’d like to find out if you have a viable case, contact our competent, compassionate lawyers here.