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Lompoc mother brings awareness to postpartum hemorrhage after son's birth

Malia Sharkey and her son, Edwin
Posted at 11:19 AM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 14:55:20-04

Most soon-to-be parents imagine the magical moment of meeting their newborn for the first time, but one Lompoc mother also wants to bring attention to complications that can happen in the delivery room.

Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is a condition that occurs when a mother experiences excessive bleeding after giving birth.

Malia Sharkey of Lompoc almost lost her life when she started bleeding uncontrollably after delivering her son, Edwin, six years ago.

She now hopes to bring attention to PPH so other expectant parents can be prepared.

According to the World Health Organization, PPH accounts for 35% of maternal deaths worldwide. Each year, 14 million women suffer from the condition.

While most deaths occur in low to middle income countries, it is still an issue in the United States.

Sharkey said she was in generally good health before and during her pregnancy and there were no indications she would have complications.

"We think I was bleeding before he (Edwin) was actually delivered. But it was difficult to tell because he was acting like a stopper and keeping everything in place, so when he actually came out, I started bleeding," recalls Sharkey. "After about five hours of surgery, the doctor came out and told my husband that I had gone into disseminated intravascular coagulation, which is when your blood doesn't clot, and said I don't think I can save her."

Sharkey was medevaced from Lompoc Valley Medical Center to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara to receive a mass transfusion and undergo several surgeries over the next few days.

"In the end, between the two hospitals, I received 30 units of blood," said Sharkey.

"Three to five percent of patients experience this excess blood loss," explains Dr. Laurence Shields, Maternal Fetal Medicine Physician at Dignity Health. "Postpartum Hemorrhage is the number one cause of severe maternal morbidity or complication that women have when they deliver."

While there could be early indications, PPH is typically discovered only after the baby is born.

"The most common cause of that (PPH) is the uterus doesn't contract enough after the delivery of the placenta," said Dr. Shields. "Most people don't factor that in unless they have had a previous baby where they've experienced blood loss or required a transfusion."

Sharkey was unconscious for nearly 4 days, unable to hold her newborn. "One of the first things that I do remember - I was still intubated so I couldn't speak. Every time I would wake up they (nurses) would tell you what has happened because this is all very traumatic and you are waking up and this is not what you were expecting," said Sharkey.

Sharkey's son, Edwin is now six years-old and Sharkey has had time to reflect on her traumatic experience.

"For a while I felt mad, because I felt like I had an unfair experience," said Sharkey. "Once I got over that, I am more disappointed that the word is not out there more - that this is an actual concern."

She is now pushing for more awareness, and spreading a message to other parents, especially to those planning for deliveries at home.

"I tell them that you can have a lot of these natural birthing experiences, in a hospital setting. You can have a midwife, you can have a doula, you can have water births if that's what you want," Sharkey said. "I want people to be close to those operating rooms that can actually save their lives, which is what saved my life."