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Can a mother’s obstetric hemorrhage result in injury to the baby?

In 0.5% of all labors, mothers experience antepartum hemorrhage, otherwise known as excessive vaginal bleeding during pregnancy. There are two main causes of the complication: placental previa which accounts for 31% of obstetric hemorrhages and placenta abruption which accounts for 22%.

Complications associated with the placenta

Placental previa is a condition in which the placenta is attached too close to the uterine wall and covers the cervix. Placental abruption is the separation of the placenta from the uterus wall before the baby is delivered.

Placental complications can be very scary for both mother and baby. Constant monitoring of the mother and baby can be necessary throughout the pregnancy once an obstetric hemorrhage occurs as a result of a placental problem. If there is bleeding during pregnancy, it leads to an increased risk of a baby’s blood crossing with the mother’s. In the case of the mother having a rhesus negative blood group, she will need to take an injection of an Anti-D immunoglobulin.

Another big risk for women with obstetric hemorrhage is that the severe bleeding will result in an early delivery and premature baby, identified as being born before reaching 37 weeks of pregnancy. This can result in the baby having trouble breathing and low birth weight. These conditions can result in long-term complications such as brain damage and cerebral palsy.

Fetal distress and injury

Obstetric hemorrhage and placental problems can lead to fetal distress and brain damage for the baby.  If a placental problem is known or identified during labor, the physician needs to keep a close fetal monitor on the baby’s heart rate to determine if emergency action is necessary.

Related:

Sources: Obstetric Hemorrhage Antepartum Haemorrhage from the Royal Women's Hospital, Victoria, Australia Antepartum Haemorrhage from Mater Mothers' Hospital Placenta Abruptio Placenta Previa

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