Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) is a major risk factor for maternal morbidity and mortality. PPH has numerous causative factors, which makes its occurrence and severity difficult to predict. Underlying haemostatic imbalances such as consumptive and dilutional coagulopathies may develop during PPH, and can exacerbate bleeding and lead to progression to severe PPH. Monitoring coagulation status in patients with PPH may be crucial for effective haemostatic management, goal-directed therapy, and improved outcomes. However, current PPH management guidelines do not account for the altered baseline coagulation status observed in pregnant patients, and the appropriate transfusion triggers to use in PPH are unknown, due to a lack of high-quality studies specific to this area. In this review, we consider the evidence for the use of standard laboratory-based coagulation tests and point-of-care viscoelastic coagulation monitoring in PPH. Many laboratory-based tests are unsuitable for emergency use due to their long turnaround times, so have limited value for the management of PPH. Emerging evidence suggests that viscoelastic monitoring, using thrombelastography- or thromboelastometry-based tests, may be useful for rapid assessment and for guiding haemostatic therapy during PPH. However, further studies are needed to define the ranges of reference values that should be considered ‘normal’ in this setting. Improving awareness of the correct application and interpretation of viscoelastic coagulation monitoring techniques may be critical in realizing their emergency diagnostic potential.
Keywords: blood coagulation tests, point-of-care systems, postpartum haemorrhage, thrombelastography