A-Z

Conditions that threaten women’s lives in childbirth & pregnancy

Haemorrhage - heavy uncontrolled bleeding

One of the main causes of life threatening emergencies in childbirth is postpartum haemorrhage (PPH). This is excessive bleeding following the birth of the baby. Most commonly it occurs within 24 hours of the birth and greater than 500mls (approximately one pint) of blood is lost (primary PPH). Secondary PPH can also occur where there is abnormal bleeding from 24 hours to six weeks after the baby is born.
 
Causes of PPH include failure of the womb to contract properly after the baby is born, problems with the placenta, for example retained placenta, placental abruption (abnormal detachment from the wall of the womb), placenta praevia (the placenta may be partly or completely covering the cervix/birth canal) or placenta accreta (where the placenta grows too deeply into the wall of the womb). Secondary PPH can be caused by retained pieces of placental tissue or infection.
 
Post-Partum Haemorrhage
 

Shortly after she had delivered her son, Natalie started to feel strange, as she was receding...

View full profile
Age at interview: 32
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And then that’s sort of when it all went blank. I said, she got up to go to the cupboard to get all of her equipment and I said, “Oh it feels very strange. I can feel, I felt myself receding into myself and I had like whooshing sound in my ears, and… the next thing I knew I came round. I’d obviously passed out, and it was a bit frantic. I could… there was… she, I don’t know the order of events so this is going to be very out of sequence. But I know the emergency button had been pressed to get a number of people into the room, I suddenly lost a lot, a great deal amount of blood. 
 
So you described kind of being in and out of consciousness?
 
Yes. And what I, there’s kind of a few key things that I remember. The first one was them saying, we need to do we know what blood type she is. We need, we need to get some blood, we need to cross whatever it is. Cross type for matching, or whatever it is they say. And I remember trying to say, because I donate blood and I know what blood group I am and I was saying, “I’m O positive. I’m O positive.” And they couldn’t hear me. And I’m convinced that I said this. And my husband says he doesn’t recall me saying it at all. But I remember thinking oh my God they need to give me a blood transfusion. I’m losing a lot of blood. 
 
And the other thing I remember hearing them say, “Her blood pressure…” They were like, because they were calling out the various statistics and once they finally got the cannulas in and then they were trying to get my blood pressure and one woman was saying, it was either 20, it was like 40 over 20. Or, it was very low, like. And I said to my husband afterwards and he said, “Actually at one point they said its 40 over nothing. We can’t get the bottom whatever it is.” And I’m glad he didn’t, he told me that quite a long time after.
 
If haemorrhage occurs it commonly happens within 24 hours after the birth. Amy (after an emergency caesarean) and Lisa (after a vaginal birth) started bleeding within minutes of giving birth to their daughters. Mandy started haemorrhaging during the night after her baby was born.
 
However, Sophie did not haemorrhage until several weeks after the birth of her second baby, which was caused by some retained placenta in her womb. (Normally after birth the placenta is delivered whole but sometimes pieces are left behind and can cause problems).
 
Some of the women we interviewed had a PPH unexpectedly after childbirth, whereas other women had big bleeds as a result of problems with their placenta that doctors had picked up on scans and were already aware of. So for example Kerry and Farkhanda were already in hospital being monitored when the bleeding started.
Women described feeling unwell, faint, dizzy, lightheaded and as if they were “falling back” or fading away from the room. Some women were unaware that they were haemorrhaging but were aware of a sudden sense of urgency and lots of activity around them. Sometimes women were passing in and out of consciousness.
 

After her son was born by caesarean section, Alison started to bleed. She did not realise she was...

View full profile
Age at interview: 32
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

 Really calm. Really calm, yes, yes. It was to be honest the whole time the room was, never felt any sense of panic or even, I never really got a sense that there was anything particularly wrong. So they had taken my husband and baby out. And I just, my main memory was laying there, thinking I’ve been here for quite a long time [laughs]. Is that right? Because I’d not done it before, you don’t know that that’s not right. 

 
And I do remember them talking about blood, and I think, I thought, that’s a bit strange and I remember them talking about they were talking about O negative and I do remember laying there saying, thinking, but I’m O positive. Are they going to give me the wrong blood? Oh my goodness, they’re going to give me the wrong thing. And trying to catch the attention of, of somebody who was there, saying, “Excuse me, I hear people talking about O negative and actually I’m O positive.” And they said, “We know you’re O positive, its fine. You know, it’s not the thing to worry about.” But at the time, is lying flat on your back with lots of people around you, it’s a little bit, it’s a little bit scary when you think you might be given the wrong, the wrong blood. 

And were there a lot of people in the room?
 
Yes, but I’d been expecting, we’d done ante natal classes and had been prepared for when you have a Caesarean there can be sort of twelve people or more in the room at the time, and it didn’t feel like that there were lots more than that in the room. So I wasn’t particularly put off by the amount of people here. It was more just lots of faces and its quite a strange angle to see people from as well, laying, you’re laying down and all you can see is faces peering at you [laughs]. It’s a little bit weird. But yes. I did seem… yes, it was just, it was quite calm and I was, may be because they’d given me various drugs to sort of keep me stable and that kind of thing. I guess. 
 
I did feel quite relaxed and I do have, there are certain things that really did stick in my mind. One is somebody squeezing my arm very, very tightly to try, I think to try and put a line into my arm to… obviously give me fluids or blood or something like that. And I remember thinking that’s really painful, don’t do that, but, and then at one point I felt like I was suddenly really struggling to breathe. And being quite frightened that nobody had noticed. Not, kind of really forgetting that there was somebody obviously monitoring me quite closely [laughs] right by my head. But because I couldn’t see them that was quite scary. I suddenly thought, oh my goodness, I’m going to stop breathing and no one’s going to notice. And it’s really, it’s really strange in the cold light of day and your rational mind thinks that would never have happened but at the time, you don’t, I guess you don’t think particularly rationally about those kinds of things so… 
 
But they’d spotted it and they gave me some oxygen and you know, it was fine. And then, even though I felt I had been there a long time, I didn’t really have any recollection of how long I’d been there and I do have a memory of looking at the clock and seeing it was 2 o’clock. And my son had been born at quarter to twelve and I thought, that’s a really long time. And then obviously at some point quite close to that they said, “We’re going to give you, we’re going to put you to sleep for a little while.” But I still didn’t know why. But it didn’t really concern me, I wasn’t really bothered about the fact that they w
 

Shortly after her daughter had been delivered by caesarean section, Amy noticed the atmosphere...

View full profile
Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Amy' And then they delivered…. Once they had finally numbed me, they delivered [daughter] fairly quickly didn’t they? And that was all fine. I remember hearing her cry and I remember them saying it’s a girl, because we didn’t know and then them saying to you do you want to take…
 
Sally' “Do you want to come and cut the cord?”
 
Amy' Do you want to come and cut the cord and they took her off to one side and they said to us, “Don’t look. Don’t look round the sheet because you know, obviously, not for me for her, you’ll see all the bits and pieces.” And stuff like that. But of course the…
 
Sally' When they cut the cord they way, so I’m sat at the head and its over here, so you kind of just by looking back at (A) you can see, oh and I’m one of the most squeamish people in the world and it was, you could just be like oh….
 
Amy' And then I think quite quickly I must have started bleeding. But it’s all a bit of a blur really. Because I suddenly. I do sort of vaguely remember this slight sense of, the sort of mood changing and the music going off.
 
Sally' Yes, the music got switched off.
 
Amy' And I don’t really remember an awful lot after that, because I think I must have lost consciousness fairly quickly, but basically they said, I had had, the uterus hadn’t contracted quickly enough. And the… well when I saw the consultant as part of my follow up she said it was probable that because I had a lot of Syntocinon the uterus was just exhausted by the time they then did the C Section and whilst they expected there to be some blood loss it just didn’t contract at all.
 
So I then had a bleed. And they also I had a blood vessel tore as well and they were very vague about whether that was done by the surgeon or the by getting her out. Because she was a big baby she was 9lb 11, so she is a big baby so they were sort of very uncertain about how that had happened as well. And then I don’t really. They did actually, you brought her over, or somebody brought her over.

Sally' Yes, no, no, I came and sat down and cut the cord.
 
Yes, she took control. But then I started to get quite upset because obviously Amy was kind of. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I didn’t know. You know, all I knew was suddenly the room was full of people. You know, absolutely rightly no one was talking to me about what was going on apart from the anaesthetist and so they said, “Perhaps you should leave.”
 
And of course, I think whilst they say that that’s probably the right thing for me to do, but of course I was starting to think, well why are you asking me to leave? What the hell is going on?
 

So I took, the midwife that had been with us, put [daughter] in the kind of cot, incubator thing and she was fine throughout. She was, she was kind of, they weren’t at all worried about her, or anything. And I kind of sat in the corridor. You know, just outside while they gave you a blood transfusion. While they were giving her blood, and but in the meantime Amy’s Mum who sat in the kind of reception area could hear them ordering blood for someone and knew… Because we’d been in there a couple of hours by this point. You were in theatre for almost thr

Women who were aware of the amount of blood they were losing were often very frightened. Kerry, who bled due to placenta praevia said, It was all, “Am I going to die? Am I going to bleed to death?”
 
Treatment for post-partum haemorrhage usually involves internal compression of the womb to stop the bleeding, IV drips and blood transfusions, and sometimes more complicated procedures to block bleeding blood vessels under X-ray guidance. If the bleeding cannot be stopped and becomes life threatening, a hysterectomy is performed. Internal compressions were used to stop the bleeding for Natalie and Michelle. Sophie was taken into theatre where she was given a blood transfusion (under general anaesthetic) and doctors removed the bits of retained placenta that were causing the bleed.
 

Sophie had started to bleed at home, 3 ' weeks after her daughter was born. She went into...

View full profile
Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 36
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT

Sophie' And a chap tapped me on the shoulder and point to my feet. My feet, and there was blood just pouring down and I was like, oh no. And at that point I was scared. I was getting scared, because I just couldn’t understand it. And I said, “Right, get me a midwife [laughs]. I wasn’t moving.” I just said, “Get me a midwife.” And they came in. They put me in a wheelchair, they got lines in my hands very quickly.

 
Tom' They did respond very quickly didn’t they?
 
Sophie' And…
 
Tom' Because you were in the right place.
 
Sophie' Yes. And…
 
Tom' And they took you into theatre I think didn’t they?
 
Sophie' No, not at that point, they took me back to my bed and got me into my bed and I had a massive, massive haemorrhage in the…
 
Tom' And you lost a lot of blood didn’t you, and at that point they realised it was a haemorrhage obviously and…
 
Sophie' Yes, I had a team of about ten people suddenly.
 
Tom' Hm.
 
Sophie' And I was having clots, massive clots of blood.
 
Tom' Hm. And they were giving you …
 
Sophie' You know, everybody knows, everybody would know that wasn’t normal. And yes, and I was on Clexane at the time as well, so that didn’t help did it?
 
Tom' That’s right yes. Yes. And I think they took you into theatre and realised it was a retained, piece of retained placenta.
 
Sophie' That’s right.
 
Tom' Which was causing the haemorrhage from the uterus and they, they cleared that. And you know, I sort of asked them when I turned up, I thought you know, they’d cleared all that. And then said, well and this is the thing, we never can tell absolutely one hundred per cent and you know, you know, they hadn’t cleared… but then they…
 
Sophie' But all the symptoms that normally you would display.
 
Tom' Hm.
 
Sophie' I wasn’t showing them all, even though I was bleeding I was sort of saying to the midwives and nurses, “Is this normal? Because it doesn’t feel normal to me. I mean I’ve had a baby before…”
 
Tom' Hm. That’s right.
 
Sophie' … it doesn’t really feel normal to me these bouts of, of bleeding.
 
Tom' Yes, that’s right.
 
Sophie' And they were like, well you know, it seems normal to us, and so, “Oh okay.” But clearly at that point it wasn’t and I lost two and a half litres of blood that day.
 
Tom' Yes. That’s right, well that’s what they estimated.
 
Sophie' Yes, that’s what they estimated and they said, that was an awful lot of blood to lose. So...
 
Tom' A massive shock to see obviously at first hand from your point of view…
 
Sophie' Yes.
 
Tom' And then I arrived literally as they were taking you out of the ward and to theatre and saw you quickly, didn’t I, and they sort of explained to me as you went and yes. And then I saw you when you came, because you came back out of theatre into the recovery area, b
 

Shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Michelle noticed that she was losing a great deal of...

View full profile
Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I was on the floor, on a bean bag, my daughter came up to me. Just couldn’t believe that I had a daughter. I really wanted a daughter and then I looked down and said, “I’m bleeding a bit much aren’t I?” And the midwife said, “No, no, you’re fine.” And I just looked at her and I said, “No, I’m definitely bleeding too much.” And she said, “Hm. I think you are.” She said, “Oh you mind if I give you that injection?” I said, “No, no, that’s fine.” So she gave me an injection. 
 
And then I think she called another midwife in. I can’t really remember. Events got obviously a bit blurred. I handed [daughter] up to [husband] and I said, “You hold her, I just want to concentrate on this.” So he was, you know, holding her and getting to know her. The placenta came out followed by a load of blood but I just thought, I knew this is wrong. 
 
So she called the other midwife and the midwife came in and they started to palpate my uterus. Which she had to start press down on it, I know now, to stop the bleeding. You kind of put fundal pressure on. And then they said to me, “Look you’re going to have to get up on the bed.” So I said, “Okay.” And I thought I can’t. And I said, “I can’t get on the bed, and they said, “You’re going to have to.” And I said, “I can’t get up.” And they said, “You’re going to have to get up.” So I said, “All right then.” 
 
So they got hold of me, I said, “You’ll have to give me a hand then, because I can’t get up.” So I think the each gave me a hand and as I stood up, I just remember fainting. Just crashing back down and then the next thing I remember is, the emergency buzzer going off and tons of people were then in the room. I came round to get… and it was weird actually. Because, because I was a social worker at the hospital I’d seen one of the doctors on rotation at my hospital. So she walked in and I said, “Oh hi,” [laughs]. Funny the things you remember. 
 
And they just started doing things to do me, they put a drip in my hand, and did whatever they needed to do. I just felt so poorly. And it turned out I’d lost four pints, which they term as a massive haemorrhage its, 2 - 2,000 mls which is very significant. So but they sorted me out and stabilised me and it was fine. As I was on the floor I remember looking up and seeing [husband]. Just, he was just standing there with [daughter], and he’d took his tee-shirt off, he had skin to skin contact and he was just stood here, just looking shocked. Just holding her.
 
I said to him later, “What was it like for you?” And he just said, “I thought I was watching you die.” And that was just running through my head. Just what am I going to do? I’ve got my daughter, I’ve got my lovely daughter. And my wife’s dying in front of me. What am I going to do?
 
Anyway when I came round I was just saying to him, “I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s fine.” But he didn’t believe me.
 
So they got me on the bed and sorted me out and put the drip up, they put fluids up and everything else and I was sorted, but at that time, I had what was it, I’d had a long time in labour. I’d been in labour hours and you know, I’d been up, I’d not slept that well, this was getting on to. She was born about 6 o’clock in the evening and by the time they’d sorted me out and gave her back to me it was 11 o’clock.
 
My Mum and Dad knew that something
In some cases, doctors and midwives were unable to stop the bleeding and it was necessary to perform a hysterectomy (operating to remove her womb) to save the woman’s life. For more on women who experienced a hysterectomy after their haemorrhage, see ‘Hysterectomy’.
 
While blood loss, if not stopped, could be dangerous for all women, the speed and severity of the bleeding varied. Some women started to lose blood very rapidly and the crash teams were called, while other women were monitored over a period of hours.
 

Mandy started to bleed shortly after her son was born. Doctors tried several options to stem the...

View full profile
Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 28
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I remember waking up about sort of 6 o’clock (pm) feeling the contractions quite strongly. And at that time my husband still wasn’t there [laughs]. So I pretty much laboured on my own, which was fine actually. And I had the midwives come in, just to check me. And then the next thing I know is that I’m in established labour and in a delivery suite and you know, on gas and air and I have my baby. Okay he was delivered by ventouse. I was induced. I did have an oxytocin drip.  But otherwise that part of it was quite straightforward. So apart from him obviously being in potential danger. Fortunately his APGAR score was very high as well. It was 9 to 10. So against all the odds of my being quite ill that week before, he did really, really well.
 
It was the complication of afterwards that was the problem. What they then found, because they didn’t know what to expect. This is what they told me in retrospect as well. Was the amount of bleeding. You know, it wasn’t necessarily gushing as such, but my husband’s remarks were, oh you know, again in retrospect. But he came in, not knowing the condition. Because I obviously hadn’t contacted him before, which you know, in hindsight I should have done. The midwives hadn’t either. So the first contact had was the midwife asking me for his mobile and then him coming him. So he was just think oh we’re having the baby early great. 
 
So he went through the birth process as any Father would not knowing what was going to happen. The complications then happened. So he remembers going out, making all the phone calls, telling everybody about you know, son’s arrived, everything’s fine, and then seeing me on the bed with tarpaulin on the floor covered in blood. So from a Father’s point of view quite traumatic and again you know, probably could have been handled better by myself and the midwives and the staff really in that, you know, he should have been pulled aside and just said, “Look you know, this could potentially be quite tricky.”
 
The family obviously went through a very hard time afterwards, because then what happened was the bleeding didn’t stop. The next day in the morning we were told that, you know, they had to do something, because you know, I was, I think up to that point I had something like 14 units of blood. Something like, in the end there was 22 units of blood and 14 units of platelets to help with the clotting.
 
So the consultants came in and this bit was I felt was very good in the way they handled it. Because they had [husband] and myself and then there was two consultants who were going to sort of look at it. They brought experts in which was wonderful. I’ve seen the notes that they obviously contacted other hospitals to find out how to deal with this. And then they drew out diagrams about what could happen.
 
So the first option was to brace the wound. Which is I don’t know what they use but something that sort of puts pressure against the inside of the uterus to try and stop where the bleeding is coming from, basically where the placenta had come away. That was where the bleeding was from. So that would be the first operation.
 
And then what they explained to me very clearly was that if that didn’t work it would need to be a sub-total hysterectomy. So again they explained it in full detail. The ovaries would still be intact, because I was like worried about is that premature (menopause) sort of, you know, you know, the… I can’t remember what it’s called now, but meant that’s it. So I did think oh gosh, you know, at the age of 28 do I really want that? I obviously clearly understand that there would be no more children. 
 
But
 

Henrietta had delivered her first daughter without complications. When she was in the shower...

View full profile
Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So I went to have a shower and felt very uncomfortable, like I couldn’t put my clothes back on, because I was bleeding so much, that it just seemed silly to put any clothes on, because they were just going to get covered in blood. 
So I felt a bit awkward. 
 
Went back to the post natal ward. You know, I said, after a while I said to the midwife, “You know, I’m bleeding quite a lot.” And the trouble is you know, the post natal ward is quite busy, so she said, “Okay, I’ll come and see you in a minute. I’ll come and see it.” And went off and did a few other things, and eventually came back, and was like, “Oh yes, you are bleeding quite a lot,” sort of thing. It just seemed to be, it seemed she wasn’t particularly bothered or interested. 
 
So I just stayed in the bed in the post natal ward for a little and, and eventually she came back with a couple of other midwives and they decided to remove me from the room. So they wheeled the bed out, and the only room that they had empty was, something like, well I think it said on the door something like you know, ‘Emergency Recovery Room’ or something quite daunting, but actually it was obviously just a room that they stored loads of gear in, so they had all sorts of machines and things sitting there, and while we were in there, people would just keep coming in and taking things, taking equipment out the room, and they were just like people wandering in and out all the time, which was a bit weird.
 
Yes, so that was probably about 2 or 3 in the afternoon at that point that we went into a different room. And I think they called one of the doctors I think an SHO and they came and they said to keep the changing the bedding and to weigh it. So they were changing the sheets and the padding and everything on the bedding every fifteen minutes or so and weighing it to see how much blood loss there was.
 
And then you know, another doctor would come in. The registrar came in later and was saying, “Oh yes, you know, it’s quite a lot of blood and everything, they just sort of carried on for a while.” They kept on giving me Syntometrine because they thought that it was that my uterus hadn’t contracted, which I believe is the most common cause of haemorrhage, that’s what I’m told. That wasn’t the case with me. 
 
So they kept giving me Syntometrine and I was on a Syntometrine drip and it obviously didn’t have any effect. And it got quite frustrating because they kept wanting to feel the uterus to see if it had contracted. “Oh yes, yes, it has contracted really well, but we’ll just keep giving you more Syntometrine.” And it felt a bit like, well if you can tell that’s not the problem, then maybe it should be something else. But they kept trying to treat what they thought was the most common cause.
 
So I was just there all the time, and they were weighing the bedding and giving me more Syntometrine, this kind of thing. And they kept putting in different cannulas all the time. I ended up with five difficult cannulas in because they just kept messing it up and obviously at this point I was really quite tired. So I wasn’t too impressed with what was happening and yes, eventually I guess a consultant came and said, “Right well we’re going to take you into theatre to see what it is, because it could be a number of different things.” And then she disappeared again and an anaesthetist came back to say, you know, going to give me a spinal block so that I could go into theatre and so on, and so they sort of briefed me on that and then they took me down to theatre and it was change over time on the shifts. 
 
Some women knew about the possibility of haemorrhage after childbirth and so when they started to feel faint, had an idea what might be happening to them. Other women had no idea about the possibility and wished they had known more, so they could have prepared themselves mentally.
 

A friend of Natalie’s had had a haemorrhage. When she started to feel very faint she was grateful...

View full profile
Age at interview: 32
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 30
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And at the time I was sort of, I had no idea what was going on, but at the same time I did know what was going on, because one of my friends from my ante natal group had also had a haemorrhage and I’d literally seen her four days before, the first time after she’d had her baby, a week before, and she looked pale as anything when she walked in and we were all sat here, and everyone was going, “What happened, you know, [friend] what went on.” And she said, “I really don’t think I should tell you.” Because I was the last one to have the baby. I was the last one pregnant. Everyone else had had theirs. And she said, “I don’t want to make it bad for [name].” She was really paranoid and scared about labour. So I think she was worried about making me in the same sort of frantic state she had been and I remember taking her to the side in the kitchen and I said to [friend], “I really do want to talk about it, and don’t if you don’t want to, but I’m not going to be freaked out by it and I think it’s helpful to know what to look out for.” 
 
And because she’d explained to me this sensation of, you know, falling away from people and getting very faint and light headed and feeling like she was on gas and air, even though she wasn’t on gas and air. As soon as that started to happen to me, I said to my midwife, “I don’t feel very well. I don’t feel quite right.” And I do remember saying to her, “Oh I feel a bit funny.” And I’d even said my midwife about [friend] to her after the delivery, and I don’t know why I had been talking about my friend who’d had a haemorrhage. But I’m so grateful that she said what she did, because as soon as I stated getting exactly the same symptoms that she’d, she’d described, I was able to kind of try and tell my midwife that and she was perhaps.. And I think that’s why she’d been concerned about the fact that I hadn’t passed any water and that I was still seemingly passing clots and losing blood and she 
 
Later she came to talk to me in the, in the post natal ward and she said that sometimes a full bladder can [pause] stop the, I can’t remember exactly what she said, but it was very important to her that my bladder was emptied because that would give her a clear indication of how much blood I was losing.
 
 

Kerry had placenta praevia. She was in hospital being monitored after having had a smaller bleed...

View full profile
Age at interview: 27
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 25
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I was in the labour ward. I just woke up, and I thought I need a wee, which is unusual for me. I just stood up and I just, I had to wee in the bed pan. They wanted to keep testing it and seeing if there was blood in it. Just when I stood up it was just, the floor, I could see just see red basically.
 
Okay, so what did you do?
 
I just leaned back onto the bed and grabbed the alarm and just, the midwife came in and straight away she just hit this alarm and it was just doctor after doctor and… I do remember them doing a physical examination of me as well, while I was bleeding which was really uncomfortable. I don’t think she got that far in when she had just seen how much blood was coming out. It was just straight away the bed was just soaked.
 
Okay and how do you think the haemorrhage went on for?
 
I would probably say half, not more than half an hour. It was, it literally happened and I was five minutes, within five minutes I was in the theatre.
 
Okay.
 
And it was, I just remember them pressing, and putting and messing about down there with like towels… While they were trying to sit me up, I remember having a midwife between my legs, and I can’t even, I wasn’t even embarrassed or anything. All I could see was just the blood, and all right it was on her gloves, and there were sheets and everything was just, and everywhere I looked it was red. It was so frightening.
 
And how did you feel? You said you felt…
 
I just felt. I felt scared, because I’d never come across anything like this. I had no understanding of it, and I just didn’t expect to be in there and then you hearing words, hysterectomy, and, and you get, I could hear her shouting what my blood type was, and the doctor, and then I had the anaesthetist tell me he was going to put me to sleep if I lost too much blood. And I thought maybe if I’d have known a lot more I could have mentally prepared myself, that yes, you can haemorrhage. This what haemorrhage means and you might have to have a blood transfusion. You know, things like that, I didn’t know like what happens when you haemorrhage. They never explained that if you haemorrhage, because I could have said then, well what would happen if I did haemorrhage and then remembering the main word hysterectomy and I thought that’s mine, that’s a woman, its, and I’m thinking I’m 25 year old. And it was just so frightening. 
 
My partner, he couldn’t even come in. He, he fainted outside but he couldn’t… So my sister had to come in. He said he’s never been so frightened in his life. Ever. 
 
Once doctors had managed to stop the bleeding, the women were transferred to postnatal wards, or allowed to go home. The length of recovery time women experienced varied greatly depending on the amount of blood they had lost, if they needed a hysterectomy, or if they had other illnesses. Natalie and Amy did not lose vast amounts of blood, they were given blood transfusions and the bleeding was stopped quite quickly. Even so, they felt very weak for some time afterwards.
 

Doctors were able to stop Henrietta's bleeding quite quickly and she did not need a blood...

View full profile
Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
So the next day then they decided that you didn’t need a blood transfusion. Did they put on any iron medication or..?
 
No, they didn’t. They said that I should eat some steak and some dark chocolate which went down very well [laughs]. And that was basically it. Yes, they had no problem with it really. And we then just had to hang around to be sort of signed off and discharged and everything and the thing was it’s the whole, you know, the doctor comes round every afternoon to sign off all the babies. And we’d miss that you know, I mean [daughter] had been on the list the day before, but because we then got moved into another room, she’d missed betting signed off. So we had to wait for her to get signed off that day, and in the end we didn’t wait. Because I just was ready to go home, so we just left.
 
 

Even after she was discharged Amy felt very weak and was on extra iron injections for several weeks.

View full profile
Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Amy' No. I then went back a few weeks later for my check up with the consultant and had a long kind of chat with her about what had happened. And she explained some things. And I think we knew obviously stuff had gone wrong and we knew, you know, once I came home I was still very unwell. I was like, once I got to the top of the stairs I was out of breath and I just wasn’t really able to pick [daughter] up.
 
Sally' No.
 
Amy' I mean…
 
Sally' If I hadn’t have had four weeks off work…
 
Amy' I don’t know what we’d have done. We’d have absolutely… we’d have had to have someone move in with us, my Mum or your Mum or something even then because I just couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even in the night lift her out of the moses basket right by the bed, and I was on injections. I had to give myself injections and various things.
 
Sally' Iron and stuff.

Amy' Iron tablets and stuff and I was on those for quite a long time. And when I went back to the see the consultant she was the sort of first person that said, I really remember her saying to me, “Oh you need to give yourself some time, because you might feel fine now in terms of sort of emotionally how you feel about it, but then when the kind of whole, I’ve got this new baby thing wears off, it might hit you and she said, because when you nearly die it can be a bit traumatic. And [laughs] that was the first time I think anyone had really said, sort of said how serious it had been and I hadn’t, and I’d been told that I’d lost about four, well I was told I lost about four litres of blood, but on the notes it says less than that. So I’m not entirely sure. But at the time I think we were talking about 4 litres of blood.
 
Women who had a haemorrhage and did not need to have a hysterectomy or further surgery generally did not feel they had lasting effects once they had recovered from the blood loss. Natalie lost 3 and a half litres of blood and had a blood transfusion and felt weak for a while, but did not have any long lasting effects. Amy also felt weak and took iron supplements to try and get her iron levels back up again.
 
In terms of future pregnancies, these women were advised that if they were thinking of getting pregnant again, they would be considered high risk, and would need consultant led care.
 

In her current pregnancy Henrietta has been told by her midwife that she will have to give birth...

View full profile
Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 29
SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I don’t think about it too much, because if it happens then it happens. And at least at this time I might be a bit more familiar with what might be going on. I guess I’m not really sure. I guess I’m probably worried that afterwards I’ll be really conscious of like how much blood there is and I’ll be worrying about this, is this, you know, is this too much, how does this compare to last time? Sort of thing. I think I’ll be worrying about it quite a lot then.  And again like not having any experience of what it should be like, you know, I don’t, you know, I won’t really be able to really to have… I don’t know I think that’s the only thing I’ll probably be a bit twitchy afterwards.
 
Have you spoken to anyone about. I mean how do you feel about being pregnant in terms of haemorrhaging and have you said anything to anybody about that?
 
I haven’t really, I mean I just kind of assumed you know, that it’s just one of those things, totally random, it was a tear, you know, that could happen to anybody, so I’m not that bothered by it, and I haven’t ever thought that it would happen again. I mean it might you know, but there’s no more chance of it happening again than for anyone, so I’ve not been that worried about it. But I have to say that when I saw the midwife for the first time, for booking in for this one, she did say, “Well you’ll have to have it in hospital, because there’s an increased chance that’s I’ll haemorrhage again.” And I was like, “Really is there?” But she didn’t explain why that was. And that’s quite frustrating because just I’d like to know why? If there is why is that? You know, and just out of interest really, I guess, just to understand and I guess may be its just me I’m a bit cynical, because she couldn’t explain I kind of feel like well may be you don’t, I’d rather here that from a doctor. You know, if a doctor could say to me, you know, there’s more chance of haemorrhage of this, it’s all right.” Then that would, I’d accept that and that would be okay. I kind of feel a bit like you know, maybe she’s just saying that, and that’s a bit frustrating.
 


Last reviewed April 2016.
Last update April 2016.
donate
Previous Page
Next Page