Pregnancy - Obstetric Emergencies

Pregnancy can sometimes present life-threatening health problems for a mother and her baby. These problems are called obstetric emergencies. An obstetric emergency may arise at any time during pregnancy, labour and birth.

Emergencies during Pregnancy & Labour


The loss of a baby before 20 weeks gestation. A miscarriage cannot be stopped once it has started. The mother may need treatment for infection, or to remove remaining tissue.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Where the fertilised egg implants in one of the fallopian tubes rather than the uterus (womb). The pregnancy cannot continue and treatment usually means the loss of the tube. If the pregnancy causes a split in the tube, this can result in pain and serious bleeding. Loss of or damage to the tube may affect the woman’s ability to become pregnant in the future.

Placental Abruption

Where the placenta separates from the uterus before birth, causing bleeding, pain and contractions.

Shoulder Dystocia

Where the baby’s shoulders wedge in the birth canal after the birth of the baby’s head. Depending on its position, the baby may start to lose oxygen.

Prolapsed Umbilical Cord

Where the umbilical cord is pushed down into the cervix or vagina before the baby is born. If the cord becomes compressed, the fetus does not receive enough oxygen. The result may be brain damage or even death.

Rupture of the Uterus

Where a weak spot in the uterus tears.

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