While every new birth involves bleeding, a small percentage of deliveries escalate to what’s considered “excessive bleeding” — a phrase that sounds vague to most people but which the medical community quantifies as more than 500 cubic centimeters (cc) of blood in vaginal delivery and more than 1,000 cc for a Caesarean section. When a woman loses this amount of blood in the process of her labor and delivery, there can be serious, even long-lasting, consequences, both for her and for her baby.
So what exactly happens when a mother bleeds too much during delivery? Whether she loses too much blood because of cervical tearing, improper surgical technique, or uterine inversion, how is her health affected over time? How is her baby’s? To help answer those questions, here’s a look at a few of the possible long-term consequences of excessive bleeding in delivery.
- Placental Abruption: For the baby, excessive bleeding in delivery can lead to placental abruption, a situation where the placenta separates from the uterine wall prematurely. If this happens while the baby is still in utero, and if enough of the placenta separates before a physician intervenes, the baby isn’t able to get the proper nutrition and/or oxygen necessary to stay stable. This can lead to lifelong problems for the baby or, in the worst cases, even death.
- Hysterectomy: For the mother, losing excessive blood during pregnancy could mean an immediate need for blood transfusions or it could mean needing surgical intervention and a possible hysterectomy. While blood transfusions can be fairly insignificant in terms of health repercussions, a hysterectomy means the woman will never be able to have children again.
- Death: In a worst-case scenario for the mother, the loss of too much blood during delivery could ultimately lead to her death. If the mother doesn’t receive proper blood transfusions or doesn’t receive them quickly enough as she needs them, her heart could become dysfunctional, and she could die.
The bottom line with delivery-related bleeding is that too much bleeding is a serious matter. This is why physicians and health professionals have to understand the ramifications of excessive blood loss and take proper precautions to protect both mothers and babies.