Types of obstetric haemorrhage
Bleeding during pregnancy is called antepartum haemorrhage. It is common in women with a low-lying placenta, such as placenta praevia, or when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall (placental abruption). Major blood loss in pregnancy can reduce the supply of oxygen and other nutrients to the baby and cause brain injury or even death if not acted upon soon enough. It can also have equally devastating effects for the mother.
Bleeding after childbirth is called postpartum haemorrhage. This can occur if the uterus fails to contract after the baby is delivered and the blood vessels remain open to bleed. It can also happen if not all of the placenta is removed from the uterus.
When to make a claim
It is usually a failure by midwives or doctors to respond quickly enough to antepartum haemorrhage that gives rise to negligence claims. In all cases of vaginal bleeding in pregnancy, the baby and mother’s condition should be monitored. If there are signs that the mother’s health is at serious risk, or that the baby is not coping well, for example has an abnormal heart rate, then emergency delivery of the baby is often required. Any delays may be deemed negligent. If the mother or baby is injured because of the delays, it is possible to claim for compensation.
Postpartum haemorrhage claims can arise from poor management of labour and delivery, for instance allowing a mother to continue in childbirth for too long with no progress, or allowing her to push for too long, making the muscles in the uterus weak and unable to contract back once delivery is complete. Failing to give the mother oxytocin or other drugs to help the uterus contract, or failing to spot mild or moderate blood loss in the postnatal period that then leads to a major haemorrhage, can also be grounds for a compensation claim.
Haemorrhage can also arise from improper use of forceps during delivery, or failure to repair vaginal tears.
In most cases, obstetric haemorrhage leaves no lasting problems for mother and baby. But if poor medical treatment of the haemorrhage has caused serious injury, such as a brain injury to the baby, or the need for a hysterectomy or other serious harm to the mother, then substantial financial compensation may be available.
Speak to us for some free, informal advice about whether you have a claim. If your child has suffered a brain injury at birth, visit our dedicated brain injury website for more information on how we can help.