Increasing rates of postpartum haemorrhage in developed countries over the past two decades are not explained by corresponding changes in risk factors and conjecture has been raised that maternal obesity may be responsible. Few studies investigating risk factors for PPH have included BMI or investigated PPH risk among nulliparous women. The aim of this study was to determine in a cohort of nulliparous women delivering at term whether overweight and obesity are independent risk factors for major postpartum haemorrhage (PPH ≥1000ml) after vaginal and caesarean section delivery.
The study population was nulliparous singleton pregnancies delivered at term at National Women’s Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand from 2006 to 2009 (N=11,363). Multivariable logistic regression was adjusted for risk factors for major PPH.
There were 7238 (63.7%) women of normal BMI, 2631 (23.2%) overweight and 1494 (13.1%) obese. Overall, PPH rates were increased in overweight and obese compared with normal-weight women (n=255 [9.7%], n=233 [15.6%]), n=524 [7.2%], p <.001) respectively. There was an approximate twofold increase in risk in obese nulliparous women that was independent of confounders, adjusted odds ratio [aOR (95% CI)] for all deliveries 1.86 (1.51-2.28). Being obese was a risk factor for major PPH following both caesarean 1.73 (1.32-2.28) and vaginal delivery 2.11 (1.54-2.89) and the latter risk was similar after exclusion of women with major perineal trauma and retained placentae. Three additional factors were consistently associated with risk for major PPH regardless of mode of delivery: increasing infant birthweight, antepartum haemorrhage and Asian ethnicity.
Nulliparous obese women have a twofold increase in risk of major PPH compared to women with normal BMI regardless of mode of delivery. Higher rates of PPH among obese women are not attributable to their higher rates of caesarean delivery. Obesity is an important high risk factor for PPH, and the risk following vaginal delivery is emphasised. We recommend in addition to standard practice of active management of third stage of labour, there should be increased vigilance and preparation for PPH management in obese women.