Traditional management of anaemia due to postpartum haemorrhage (PPH) has relied upon salvage therapy with red cell transfusion. Recently published guidance recommends a change in approach toward holistic patient blood management.

To determine whether postpartum red cell transfusion practices are consistent with best practice and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Materials and methods
A retrospective audit of postpartum red cell transfusions was conducted at a tertiary level obstetrics unit. Relevant clinical and laboratory data were collected for all cases of postpartum red cell transfusions and PPH. Clinical decision making and appropriateness of transfusions were evaluated.

Among the 3235 women who delivered in 2013, 110 (3.4%) received a postpartum red cell transfusion. About 101 of the transfusions were associated with primary PPH. Overall PPH complicated 460 (14.2%) deliveries. Antenatal anaemia was identified as a major correctable risk factor for transfusion in women who experienced PPH (odds ratio 6.55, 95% CI: 3.17–13.6). Volume of blood loss and the aetiology of PPH were additional risk factors for transfusion. Transfusion was associated with lower birth weight and increased maternal length of stay. Transfusion triggers were more likely to be appropriate when transfusion took place in the operating theatre, within 12 h of delivery and when prescribed by anaesthetists. Post‐transfusion Hb levels were uniformly above target for all women transfused.

A significant number of red cell transfusions were outside the recommendations of the new guidelines. Maximising red cell mass during pregnancy and improving transfusion practices were identified as opportunities for future improvement.