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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Trends in postpartum hemorrhage in high resource countries: a review and recommendations from the International Postpartum Hemorrhage Collaborative Group

Marian Knight1*, William M Callaghan2, Cynthia Berg2, Sophie Alexander3, Marie-Helene Bouvier-Colle4, Jane B Ford5, KS Joseph116, Gwyneth Lewis17, Robert M Liston8, Christine L Roberts5, Jeremy Oats9 and James Walker10

Author Affiliations

1 National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

2 Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA, USA

3 Perinatal Epidemiology and Reproductive Health Unit, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

4 INSERM- Unité 149, Paris, France

5 The Kolling Institute of Medical Research, University of Sydney at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia

6 Dept of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Pediatrics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

7 Department of Health, London, UK

8 BC Women's Hospital & Health Centre, Vancouver, BC, Canada

9 The Royal Women's Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

10 St James University Hospital, Leeds, UK

11 Dept of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2009, 9:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-9-55

Published: 27 November 2009



Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is a major cause of maternal mortality and morbidity worldwide. Several recent publications have noted an increasing trend in incidence over time. The international PPH collaboration was convened to explore the observed trends and to set out actions to address the factors identified.


We reviewed available data sources on the incidence of PPH over time in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, the United Kingdom and the USA. Where information was available, the incidence of PPH was stratified by cause.


We observed an increasing trend in PPH, using heterogeneous definitions, in Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. The observed increase in PPH in Australia, Canada and the USA was limited solely to immediate/atonic PPH. We noted increasing rates of severe adverse outcomes due to hemorrhage in Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA.


Key Recommendations

1. Future revisions of the International Classification of Diseases should include separate codes for atonic PPH and PPH immediately following childbirth that is due to other causes. Also, additional codes are required for placenta accreta/percreta/increta.

2. Definitions of PPH should be unified; further research is required to investigate how definitions are applied in practice to the coding of data.

3. Additional improvement in the collection of data concerning PPH is required, specifically including a measure of severity.

4. Further research is required to determine whether an increased rate of reported PPH is also observed in other countries, and to further investigate potential risk factors including increased duration of labor, obesity and changes in second and third stage management practice.

5. Training should be provided to all staff involved in maternity care concerning assessment of blood loss and the monitoring of women after childbirth. This is key to reducing the severity of PPH and preventing any adverse outcomes.

6. Clinicians should be more vigilant given the possibility that the frequency and severity of PPH has in fact increased. This applies particularly to small hospitals with relatively few deliveries where management protocols may not be defined adequately and drugs or equipment may not be on hand to deal with unexpected severe PPH.