"It's like a bus, going downhill, without a driver": A qualitative study of how postpartum haemorrhage is experienced by women, their birth partners, and healthcare professionals.

Elsevier BV
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Women and birth : journal of the Australian College of Midwives, 2021, 34, (6), pp. e599-e607
Issue Date:
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Postpartum haemorrhage [PPH] remains a major cause of maternal morbidity and mortality. Whilst low-resource settings bear the greatest burden of deaths, women live with associated morbidities in all healthcare settings. Limited data exists regarding the experience for women, their partners, or healthcare professionals [HCPs], affected by PPH.


To qualitatively investigate the experience of PPH, for women (n=9), birth partners (n=4), and HCPs (n=9) in an inner-city tertiary referral centre. To provide multi-faceted insight into PPH and improve understanding and future care practices.


Participants were interviewed about their experiences within two weeks of a PPH. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.


Four distinct, but related, themes were identified: 'Knowledge specific to PPH'; 'Effective and appropriate responses to PPH'; 'Communication of risk factors'; and 'Quantifying blood loss'; which collected around a central organising concept of 'Explaining the indescribable'.


PPH was viewed as a 'crisis-style emergency', generating respectful fear in HCPs, whilst women and partners had little-to-no prior knowledge. Specific PPH knowledge dictated HCPs' response and risk communication. PPH risks were typically linked to quantification of blood loss, assessment of which varied with acknowledged questionable accuracy. Women's and partners' confidence in HCPs' ability to deal with PPH was unquestionable. Non-verbal communication was highlighted, with HCP body language betraying professional confidence.


Information about blood loss during childbirth must be imparted in a sensitive, timely manner. Whilst training for HCPs results in effective PPH management, consideration should be given to their non-verbal cues and the impact of dealing with this stressful, 'everyday emergency'.
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