Post-partum haemorrhage

Post-partum haemorrhage (PPH) is excessive bleeding from the vagina at any time after the baby's birth, up until 6 weeks afterwards.

PPH is a complication that can occur during the third stage of labour after a baby's born.

Causes vary, for example if your womb hasn’t reduced in size or you have a tear.

Blood loss during birth

Losing some blood during childbirth is considered normal. However, heavy bleeding means losing 500 ml (a pint) or more of blood in the first 24 hours after your baby's born.

If you’re bleeding heavily you might feel dizzy and light-headed too.

Treating primary postpartum haemorrhage

You’ll need to be treated straightaway to stop the bleeding. This can feel frightening because the staff will be working quickly.

Your midwife or doctor might:

  • massage your womb through your abdomen and sometimes your vagina
  • give you fluids through a drip in your arm

They'll keep a close eye on your:

  • blood pressure
  • pulse
  • respiratory rate
  • other vital signs

You’ll stay on the labour ward until the bleeding's slowed down a lot or stopped. If the bleeding carries on, you may need to have a blood transfusion or an operation.

If you lose a lot of blood, it can make you anaemic afterwards. This can make you feel extremely tired.

Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.

Last updated:
25 January 2023