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Blood transfusion, pregnancy and birth

Published: 20/02/2009

When you haemorrhage (bleed very heavily), this is an emergency situation. As a result of this bleeding, you can become severely anaemic. Without a transfusion to replace the blood you have lost, you could die. A haemorrhage can happen:

  • Early in pregnancy if you have an ectopic pregnancy (when the pregnancy is growing outside the uterus) or a miscarriage
  • After 24 weeks of pregnancy (antepartum haemorrhage)
  • During birth (intrapartum haemorrhage)
  • Immediately after birth (postpartum haemorrhage)

Even with excellent care in pregnancy and monitoring during labour, it is not possible to predict or detect every complication in time to prevent a life-threatening bleed. Surgical techniques and medication will be used to try to limit the need for a blood transfusion but a blood transfusion might be needed to save your life or to prevent serious harm to your health and your baby’s health.

This information leaflet provides information about what to expect if you need a blood transfusion during pregnancy and birth.

This patient information leaflet is based on the RCOG clinical guideline Blood Transfusions in Obstetrics, which contains a full list of the sources of evidence used to produce this guidance.

In line with the College process of reviewing all guidance every three years, this information is currently under review. The information in this version is still valid.