Antepartum haemorrhage (APH) is a medical term that refers to vaginal bleeding during pregnancy after the 20th week, but before delivery. It could signal serious complications like placenta previa (where the placenta covers the cervix) or placental abruption (where the placenta detaches from the uterus). It’s a condition that can be dangerous for both mother and baby, requiring immediate medical attention.

Key Takeaways

  1. Antepartum haemorrhage is a serious pregnancy complication that occurs when there’s bleeding from the vagina during pregnancy from 24 weeks gestational age.
  2. Possible causes of Antepartum haemorrhage include placenta praevia (low-lying placenta), placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus) or minor causes such as local lesions or trauma.
  3. Recognition and prompt management are key since Antepartum haemorrhage can have severe consequences for both the mother and the baby, including maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality.


Antepartum haemorrhage (APH) is a crucial term in motherhood as it refers to vaginal bleeding that occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and before childbirth.

It’s a significant cause of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality, thus marking its importance.

The condition demands immediate medical attention, since it can indicate a variety of complications such as placenta praevia (placenta covering the cervix), placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus wall), or vasa praevia (the baby’s blood vessels running across the entrance to the birth canal). By identifying and treating APH promptly, it’s possible to prevent severe adverse outcomes for both mother and child.

Therefore, understanding the term ‘Antepartum haemorrhage’ is vital in motherhood, especially for pregnant women, their families, and healthcare professionals.


Antepartum haemorrhage, often referred to as APH, is a key term used in maternal health, carrying immense significance for the wellbeing of both mothers and their babies during pregnancy. Essentially, it pertains to vaginal bleeding that occurs towards the end of pregnancy, in the period after the 20th week but before labour starts.

While bleeding during early pregnancy can be somewhat common, the occurrence of such an incident in the antepartum period often indicates complications, thus warranting immediate medical attention. These complications can have profound implications for the health and safety of the expectant mother and the unborn child, therefore the monitoring for any signs of APH is a critical component of antenatal care.

The term is utilised by healthcare providers as an essential diagnostic tool, which helps them identify high-risk pregnancies and optimize management strategies. Its utmost purpose is to ensure timely intervention and prevention of potentially life-threatening complications.

Being able to identify APH quickly and accurately enables doctors to take immediate actions, which can vary from close monitoring, hospitalisation to emergency delivery, depending upon the severity and the cause behind the bleeding. By serving as a critical point of detection for complications such as placenta previa and placental abruption, the concept of the Antepartum haemorrhage precisely demonstrates how medical terminology can be purposeful and indispensable for safeguarding maternal and fetal health.

Examples of Antepartum haemorrhage

Antepartum Haemorrhage (APH) is the medical term for bleeding from the birth canal between the 24th and 40th week of pregnancy. Here are three real-world examples:

Example 1: A 28-year-old woman in her second trimester of pregnancy experiences sudden, painless vaginal bleeding. Upon visiting her healthcare provider, she is diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition where the placenta lies unusually low in the uterus, next to or covering the cervix, and is causing Antepartum Haemorrhage.

Example 2: A pregnant woman, 35 weeks into her third pregnancy, plans a natural birth at a birthing center. One day she notices substantial bleeding and is rushed to the hospital. There, they discover she has vasa previa, a condition in which fetal blood vessels run across or close to the internal opening of the uterus causing Antepartum Haemorrhage. For the safety of both, they decide to carry out a C-section.

Example 3: A woman who is 31 weeks pregnant with her first child suddenly experiences heavy bleeding accompanied by abdominal pain. Medical examination reveals her placenta has started to separate from the uterine wall before the baby’s birth (a condition known as placental abruption), resulting in Antepartum Haemorrhage. The doctors take urgent steps to manage the bleeding, monitor the mother’s health status, and ensure the baby’s safety.

FAQs on Antepartum Haemorrhage

1. What is an Antepartum Haemorrhage?

Antepartum haemorrhage (APH) is a serious complication of pregnancy, defined as bleeding from or into the genital tract, occurring from 24+0 weeks of pregnancy and prior to the birth of the baby.

2. What are the causes of Antepartum Haemorrhage?

The most common causes include placenta previa, placental abruption, vasa previa, local causes, and idiopathic causes. In some cases, the cause remains unknown.

3. What are the symptoms of Antepartum Haemorrhage?

The main symptom is vaginal bleeding. This can vary from light bleeding or spotting to heavy, bright red bleeding. Other symptoms can include abdominal pain, back pain, uterine tenderness or rigidity, and frequent contractions.

4. How is Antepartum Haemorrhage diagnosed?

Diagnosis is through physical examination, ultrasound scan, and lab tests such as blood tests, coagulation profile, and sometimes amniocentesis.

5. What are the treatment options for Antepartum Haemorrhage?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause, severity of bleeding, gestational age and condition of the mother and baby. It can range from observation, bed rest at home or hospitalization, to delivery of the baby by emergency caesarean section.

6. Can Antepartum Haemorrhage be prevented?

Not all causes can be prevented. However, regular prenatal care allows for early detection and treatment of conditions that can lead to APH.

Related Motherhood Terms

  • Placental Abruption
  • Premature Labour
  • Uterine Rupture
  • Placenta Previa
  • Vasa Previa

Sources for More Information

  • Mayo Clinic – A comprehensive platform in health related matters, including Antepartum haemorrhage.
  • NHS (National Health Service) – The UK’s biggest health website provides a vast range of information about different medical conditions and their treatments.
  • World Health Organization (WHO) – This site includes a range of medical topics, including maternal health.
  • WebMD – A source of credible health information and resources on various medical conditions including Antepartum haemorrhage.