Thursday, May 13, 2010

How to UC: Blood Loss

Even if you give birth in the biggest, baddest hospital in the world, no one is sitting there at your vagina with a beaker to measure your blood loss. How do you know how to an educated estimate of blood loss? By practice! Don't worry, you don't have to bleed yourself to death to find out how much is "too much." You just need some liquid.

My demonstration is limited in that I just used water with food coloring. This means my "blood" is very translucent and not very thick. Real blood is VERY red and you can't see through it, so it looks like there is more than there is. Also, because my "blood" here is very thin, it spreads out differently than real blood would. There are ways to make your experimental blood thicker. You can use a corn syrup base to make it thicker and add some milk to make it more opaque. I would have done that, but I didn't have a chance to get to the store for corn syrup.

The first picture is 2 cups of "blood," or about 500 cc. This is how much blood a 100+ pound person can donate every 8 weeks. In general, a healthy, 100+ pound person can give up 2 cups of blood, drink a few glasses of juice and eat some cookies and then drive home without any lasting side-effects. You probably could stand to lose some more before actually passing out. Before I got pregnant this time, I was donating every 8 weeks in addition to regularly (every 2-3 hours) nursing Margaret. I've been giving blood for a few years now and the only time I got close to fainting was when I donated at 9 in the morning. Sure, I had a large breakfast, but it didn't really have time to digest and get into my system before I gave blood. Still, I didn't faint, but I did have to down a lot of fluids. Obviously, some people can handle more or less blood loss with different effects. Many sources consider the loss of 500 cc of blood to be hemorrhaging, but I'm not sure if I would consider that hemorrhaging for myself since according to that measurement, while not pregnant, I "hemorrhage" every 8 weeks for the American Red Cross.

Below is 4 cups of "blood" or approximately 1000 cc. This is what is considered severe hemorrhage after giving birth. While you are pregnant, your blood volume increases by up to 50%. So you can probably loose an extra 50% of blood in addition to the original 2 cups (or 3 cups total) without much problem. As above, some people can handle different amounts of blood loss with different effects. Because I have regularly given blood in the past with no loss of consciousness, I feel safe in guessing that I can probably lose 3-4 cups of blood while giving birth, given that I get juice and cookies afterwards, of course. After that, I would consider the blood loss to be severe hemorrhaging. But you really should go by how you feel and make sure you keep eating and drinking through labor. It's easy to forget that.

This is 4 cups of "blood" in our bathtub. If you'd like, imagine some splashed on towels outside of the tub. Liquid can definitely spread itself around and still look like a lot. And remember, this isn't as thick or as dark as blood really looks like. Equivalent blood loss would probably look a lot more alarming.

Watch me pour 4 cups! This time I didn't have the bathtub stopped up because I forgot.


This is where I'll give birth. This was actually one of our "pros" in renting this apartment. The other one we liked really didn't have a place for birthing.

Now, as almost every parent knows, you can give a child a half cup of water, or a quarter cup, or even an eighth cup, and somehow it gets everywhere and on everything. Here is 4 cups of "blood" on our floor. It's green because I didn't want to ruin any of our towels and we happen to have a green towel. Some has already been soaked up by the towel because I wanted to stop it from spreading to the baseboards and getting under the wall and such. I should have started pouring the "blood" from further away so you could get a better idea. Also, if I were to dip my foot in it and walk on a towel or chux pad, you'd be able to see that a little bit of "blood" goes a long way in looking like you killed 2 or 3 alien goats in your kitchen.

To prevent hemorrhaging, I'm currently taking liquid chlorophyll. As I near my due season, I'll add floravital to my routine to build my blood supply and iron levels. I may eat a piece of placenta at the actual birth if I feel it is needed. There are also herbs you can take. I've read contradictory things about cayenne. It's good for treating shock, but I don't think it's effective for stopping excessive bleeding.

And since I mentioned shock, let's talk about that. I, personally, think it's a good idea to treat a woman who just gave birth for shock. Get out your first aid book and a blanket and elevate those legs! Shock occurs after lots of blood loss. We actually treated me for shock after I had Margaret. While I didn't lie down with my feet elevated (I wanted to encourage the placenta to come out), I sat down on the couch and Margaret and I were under a blanket to preserve body heat. After all, you spend 9 months with an extra heater in your abdomen and suddenly- it's not there anymore! Now you've got to heat yourself by your own lonesome again. Once the placenta was out and examined, I took some cayenne for shock and drank fluids (grape juice, electrolyte drinks, and split pea soup in my case). I needed the salty soup and electrolytes to balance out the water in the juice. I probably could have lied down once the placenta was out, but I was just so oxytocin-ed up that I didn't want to.

I'd definitely recommend doing this blood splash experiment at home. Just give your toddler 2 cups of water and see how far it travels. Plus you'll have a better idea of what 4 cups looks like than what you get in my pictures.

If you are a member of Laura Shanley's unassisted birth forums, there's a thread of similar pictures where someone used a thicker concoction with corn syrup and milk and also added chux pads into the mix. It's probably much more informative than my post.


  1. If I were ever to have another baby I think I would UC just because I have learned so much from you! Love the photos!

  2. I'll have to double check with my acupuncturist on usage for birth, but there's a Chinese herb or blend (I've never been clear on if it's a single or a compound) called yunnan baiyao. Have you heard of it? I've used it several times in conjunction with shepherd's purse tincture (or either alone) when I've had "Holy CRAP I'm exsanguinating through my uterus!" periods. It has stopped or considerably slowed the red tide within hours, depending on my dosage.

    The packs even come with one pellet the Chinese use for stopping hemorrhage from gunshot wounds. It's inexpensive; $10 for a pack of 8 or 10 pairs of pills, plus the GSW pellet. Want me to look into it for you? It might be good to keep on hand.


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