Postpartum Hemorrhage: Care Instructions

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Severe bleeding from childbirth, or bleeding that causes symptoms of too much blood loss, is called a postpartum hemorrhage. Signs include having heavy bleeding and a racing heartbeat and feeling dizzy, weak, or tired. It's an emergency. It's often caused by the uterus not tightening enough after birth. It may also be caused by injuries from birth. In some cases, it's caused by a piece of the placenta that stays in the uterus after birth.

Caring for yourself afterward

  • Get plenty of rest.

  • Take medicines as prescribed.

  • Talk to your doctor about whether you need to take iron pills or a multivitamin.

  • Wear compression stockings if your doctor recommends them.

  • Eat foods that are high in iron and vitamin C. Good sources of iron include red meat, beans, leafy green vegetables, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. For vitamin C, try citrus fruits.

  • Watch your bleeding closely. You should see less of it over the next 6 weeks.

  • Use pads for bleeding. Don't use tampons or cups until your doctor says it's okay.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of hemorrhage (too much bleeding), such as:
    • Heavy vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through one or more pads in an hour. Or you pass blood clots bigger than an egg.
    • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
    • Feeling so tired or weak that you cannot do your usual activities.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    • New or worse belly pain.
  • You have symptoms of a blood clot in your leg, such as:
    • Pain in the calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Swelling in the leg or groin.
    • A color change on the leg or groin. The skin may be reddish or purplish, depending on your usual skin color.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • A fever.
    • New or worse pain in your belly.
    • Vaginal discharge that smells bad.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you:

  • Have vaginal bleeding that's not decreasing.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.