Why women bleed and how they are saved: a cross-sectional study of caesarean section near-miss morbidity

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2017 Jan 9;17(1):15. doi: 10.1186/s12884-016-1182-7.


Background: Maternal deaths from 'bleeding during and after caesarean section' (BDACS) have increased in South Africa, and have now become the largest sub-cause of deaths from obstetric haemorrhage. The aim of this study was to describe risk factors and causes of near-miss related to BDACS and interventions used to arrest haemorrhage and treat its effects.

Methods: Cross-sectional prospective study in 13 urban public hospitals in South Africa, from July to December 2014.

Results: There were 93 cases of near-miss related and 7 maternal deaths related to BDACS. The near-miss rate was 2.1/1000 live births, and the case fatality rate was 3.5/10 000 caesarean sections. Associated near-miss risk factors were previous caesarean section in 60% of multiparas, pre-operative anaemia (55%), abruptio placentae (20%) and placenta praevia and/or accreta (20%). Atonic uterus (43%) was the most frequent anatomical cause of bleeding for near-miss, followed by surgical trauma (29%). The median duration of the operations resulting in near-miss was 90 min, with 81% noted as difficult by the surgeon. Interventions in cases of near-miss included second-look laparotomy (46%), hysterectomy (41%), B-Lynch brace suture (9%), intensive care unit admission (32%) and red cell transfusion ≥3 units (21%).

Conclusion: Cases from maternal near-miss from BDACS were frequently associated with pre-operative risk factors. Extensive life-saving interventions were required during and after the operations. An important factor in initiating the sequence of interventions is the realisation by the surgeon that the caesarean section is difficult, so that the progression from uneventful operation to near-miss to death can be arrested.

Keywords: Bleeding during and after caesarean section; Caesarean section related haemorrhage; Near-miss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Transfusion / methods
  • Cesarean Section / adverse effects*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy / methods
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Morbidity
  • Near Miss, Healthcare / methods*
  • Operative Time
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Postpartum Hemorrhage / therapy*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Second-Look Surgery / methods
  • South Africa
  • Sutures / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult