Maternal Bleeding Injuries and Deaths
Excessive blood loss after childbirth can cause grave injuries. It may even lead to death for a mother after labor and delivery.
To some degree, most women bleed after giving birth, the amount depending upon whether the baby was born vaginally or by cesarean (c-section). But with continued bleeding after delivery or significant blood loss, a woman can suffer shock as her blood pressure dangerously lowers. Postpartum bleeding can occur any time after childbirth, from a day after delivery to weeks afterward. If not caught quickly, the condition can be fatal. An unfortunate but true reality, maternal hemorrhaging is one of the top causes of maternal death.
How Postpartum Hemorrhage Happens
After giving birth to a baby, a woman’s body knows what to do to repair itself. The contractions that helped prepare the body for delivery, ripening the cervix and pushing the baby out of the birth canal, continue to help the process by expelling the placenta and stemming the flow of blood after the placenta is delivered. Uterine contractions continue to do good work as they stop the blood from flowing from the blood vessels left behind once the placenta is out. But the vessels can continue bleeding if the uterine contractions are too weak.
What Causes Maternal Bleeding after Birth?
Excessive maternal bleeding after delivering a baby is likely to occur in women who have tears and ruptures during the birthing process. It is also more common in those with multiple births or multiple previous births. Problems with reproductive organs, such as the uterus and placenta, may also cause hemorrhaging. Some of the chief causes of maternal hemorrhaging include:
- insufficient force of contractions after delivery (uterine atony)
- the uterus is inverted (inside-out)
- the placenta detaches too early (placental abruption)
- the placenta does not detach from the uterine wall (placenta accreta)
- the placenta obstructs the cervix (placenta previa)
- the placenta otherwise grows into the tissues of the internal organs.
A misshapen uterus or one that is overly bloated with excess amniotic fluid, as well as tears and cuts to tissue in the uterus, vagina, or cervix, can all be sources of maternal bleeding too. High blood pressure during pregnancy, obesity, infection during pregnancy, and prolonged labor can cause maternal bleeding as well.
Additional Risks for Postpartum Hemorrhaging
There are other things that may happen before or during labor and delivery that can increase a woman’s risk for hemorrhage. For example, risk factors for too much bleeding after childbirth include:
- medications used to induce labor or slow labor to avoid premature birth
- birth instruments like vacuum extractors and forceps
- blood clotting diseases
- chorioamnionitis intrauterine infection
Sometimes, scarring from previous surgeries for fibroids or c-section delivery can result in uterine ruptures, a life-threatening condition to mother and baby that may result in postpartum bleeding. In fact, too much blood loss, regardless of the source, is extremely dangerous and possibly deadly.
What can be done to Treat Excessive Bleeding after Delivery
The actions of the medical professionals entrusted with a mother’s care can be life-saving in the face of maternal bleeding after childbirth. Sadly, negligent decisions and actions by doctors and others can contribute to the condition or fail to appropriately treat postpartum hemorrhaging also.
Recognizing the Signs of Postpartum Hemorrhage
To protect a patient’s life, her treating physician must recognize postpartum hemorrhaging immediately. If the uncontrollable bleeding occurs immediately after delivery, the signs of hemorrhaging are generally clear:
- excessive blood
- accelerated heart rate
- low blood pressure
- decreased red blood cell count
- pain in the vaginal region.
If uncontrolled bleeding occurs after discharge from the hospital or birthing center, an emergency room doctor may confuse the same signs with something else since excessive bleeding can be the result of many other conditions. However, doctors can run tests to confirm postpartum hemorrhaging by blood analysis, physical examination, and patient history review.
Maternal Bleeding Treatment
The first order of treatment is of course, stopping the bleeding by various methods. A medical professional can massage the uterus to get the contractions working harder to close off the blood vessels or administer a course of medication to do the same. In some cases, a doctor may have to investigate the area where the placenta was to look for placenta pieces left behind that are causing the bleeding. Likewise, they may need to insert a compression catheter into the uterus or pack the uterus with sponges to stop the bleeding. In other instances, surgery may be required to stitch up the blood vessels or discover the cause of the bleeding. In extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be what stops the bleeding. In the meantime, the patient must have blood and fluids replaced intravenously. Often, oxygen must be supplied to prevent shock.
Medical Negligence with Maternal Bleeding after Giving Birth
While postpartum hemorrhaging manifests in less than 5% of all pregnancies, it is frequently associated with maternal fatalities. In addition, birth injuries or complications cause the most serious bleeding after delivery. Doctors who use forceps inexpertly and tear the vaginal or vulvar tissue may be responsible for postpartum hemorrhaging. Even passive negligence like inattention or unpreparedness, can be damaging. Every member in charge of the birthing team ought to know the hemorrhage risk factors of every patient, so that they can prevent complications or accidents that may cause excessive bleeding. For example, doctors may perform cesareans earlier than other patients when facing a high-risk mother enduring prolonged labor. This may be crucial to prevent possible tears and internal bruises that may cause bleeding. And if labor was long, the doctor and staff who attended the birth must follow up with high-risk patients who report bleeding, even long after the delivery.
Hospitals must likewise be prepared for a coordinated emergency response to the postpartum bleeding, having clear protocols on communication, on-hand supplies, and emergency response times. Hospitals that are not prepared for maternal bleeding may be held accountable for the damages that occur to the mother and her loved ones when delays in treatment or poor quality of care lead to permanent injuries or death. Finally, failing to diagnose postpartum hemorrhage may be the single most common source of claim for injuries caused by medical negligence and postpartum bleeding. Though blood loss occurs for many reasons, a doctor should know the woman’s history, risk factors, and symptoms to be able to quickly diagnose and treat hemorrhaging when it happens before, during, or after labor.
Potential Reasons for Bleeding during Pregnancy
Maternal bleeding can also occur at other times during pregnancy. In the early months, the concern is that the pregnancy has miscarried, and the fetus has not survived. Complications from a miscarriage may cause excessive bleeding. Other sources of unusual bleeding past 20 weeks typically suggest problems with the placenta’s placement, growth or detachment that requires a c-section or premature delivery of the baby, depending on which placenta problem exists. When the placenta detaches, the physician is faced with prolonging the pregnancy or delivering a premature baby, which can be born with severe health problems if born before 34 weeks. However, prolonging delivery endangers the mother’s life.
Other reasons for pregnancy bleeding may be due to trauma from a fall or car accident. If bleeding does not appear right away, the cause may be hidden as blood pools in the tissues before exiting through the vagina and causing tremendous blood loss. Finally, blood disorders such as hemophilia endanger pregnancies during or after delivery since the blood does not clot and a patient can bleed profusely. All of these require quick action and a timely diagnosis of the source of the bleeding to prevent life-threatening injuries or death.
Have You or a Family Member been Injured or Died from Maternal Bleeding in New Jersey?
Women who suffer needlessly from injuries caused by their medical team and families who suffer lost loved ones due to improper care for maternal bleeding have rights. If this happened, you deserve to be compensated for your past, current, and future economic, emotional, and psychological losses. Our lawyers are extremely experienced handling cases of birth injuries and maternal postpartum hemorrhaging for clients throughout New Jersey. We help clients to navigate through the legal system, from legal advice and evaluation of their claim, to filing a lawsuit and successfully bringing their case to conclusion. As experienced birth injury attorneys, we can use the knowledge and resources we have acquired to aid you and your family in making the right decisions before, during and after litigation. Seek counsel from our team of highly qualified birth injury attorneys if you suffered injuries from negligent diagnosis and treatment of postpartum hemorrhaging. Contact us online or call (866)-708-8617 for a free consultation and review of your maternal bleeding case.