It was 4am as I sat on the toilet waiting for the ambulance, covered in blood from the waist down. The bed sheets were soaked and the bathroom looked like a crime scene. I knew that I was having a Postpartum Haemorrhage and that I needed to get the emergency room as quickly as possible.
Postpartum Haemorrhage is defined as more than 500ml of rapid blood loss after childbirth and one of the most common causes of maternal deaths worldwide. A Primary Postpartum Haemorrhage occurs in the 24 hours following delivery and a Secondary Postpartum Haemorrhage can happen at any time up to six weeks after giving birth.
When having our first child Alisha, I suffered a primary Postpartum Haemorrhage, losing around 600ml of blood after delivering the placenta. Although I barely managed to remain conscious during the experience, I remember my doctor pushing down on my abdomen to help stop the bleeding. I later found out that I was also given every drug in my obstetrician’s arsenal to help my uterus contract so that the bleeding would stop.
After giving birth, mums have after-bleeding, called lochia, for up to ten weeks. Following Alisha’s birth, within a few days my bleeding became just light spotting which is why I starting worrying following the birth of our second child Sara when I began having gushes of bright red blood at least once every other day and my vagina started emitting a bad odour. I called my obstetrician who told me that occasional gushes were normal but if the smell got worst to come and see him. He also advise that if the bleeding became enough to soak a pad within an hour or if I began passing blood clots larger than the size of a golf ball, that I should call an ambulance.
After feeding Sara at 2am I went to the toilet to change my pad and on it I noticed bits of flesh-like tissue. But since there was no blood, I just dismissed it and went to bed. I woke a couple of hours later, feeling as if I’d wet the bed. I quickly got up and went to the toilet. When I switched on the light I realised that we had a situation on our hands. There were fist-sized bits of tissue and blood clots all over the bathroom floor and I had to stay seated on the toilet because of the constant flow of blood coming out.
Once in the emergency room, I was told that my uterus was about ten times the size it should be for a woman that has given birth twelve days prior. The doctors conducted an internal examination to determine where the bleeding was coming from and I continued to pass large blood clots and blood. I ended up losing around 1L of blood in total. The most unpleasant part of the whole experience was being given drugs by suppository to contract my uterus and being made to fast in case I needed to go into surgery for a Dilatation and Curette to clear any retained tissue.
Once stabilized, I was sent for tests to determine the cause of the bleeding. Ultrasounds showed no traces of retained placenta and blood tests didn’t show any signs of infection. Basically all the tests showed I was completely normal and offered no explanation for my Postpartum Haemorrhage – not exactly reassuring.
I was transferred back to the hospital where I was delivered into the care of my usual obstetrician, who explained that since nothing showed up in the ultrasound the safest course of action was to treat my condition as an infection. They kept me in hospital for another three days where I was given a barrage of intravenous antibiotics around the clock. I was given oral antibiotics and iron tablets to take for another week upon returning home.
Since coming home I’ve spent the last few days trying to catch up on rest and getting the girls back into their routine. Despite being reassured by my obstetrician that quite often women can have a Postpartum Haemorrhage for no apparent reason and that it was just “one of those things” I still can’t help worrying that it could happen again. I suppose, all I can do is to try and put the whole experience behind me and just get on with it. After all, I’ve got two kids that need me.