A woman is at increased risk for developing blood clots during pregnancy and that risk remains elevated for up to twelve-weeks following childbirth. (Ref 1) Pregnancy increases the risk of a blood clot fivefold, with the risk even higher in the postpartum timeperiod. (Ref 2)
The risk for developing a blood clot during pregnancy is further increased if you have additional risk factors, such as:
- Prolonged bed rest
- Prolonged inactivity (such as sitting for long periods of time or talking long trips by plane or car)
- Surgical delivery ( C-section)
- An acquired or hereditary blood clotting disorder
- Previous clot
- Family history of clots
- Active cancer
- An inflammatory disorder, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease
What can you do to be proactive about blood clots?
1. Know the symptoms
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT):
A clot that typically is in one leg (can also occur in unusual sites, such as veins in the arm, abdomen or around the brain). Symptoms range from mild to severe; may involve the foot, ankle, calf, whole leg or arm. The classic symptoms are:
- Discoloration (bluish or reddish)
Pulmonary Embolism (PE):
A blood clot in the lungs. The classic symptoms are:
If you suspect a blood clot, get medical attention right away. Don't delay.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain (may be worse with deep breath)
- Unexplained cough (may cough up blood)
- Unexplained rapid heart rate
Blood clots are often misdiagnosed or diagnosed after a delay. Be aware that other medical conditions can also mimic the symptoms of a blood clot, making it difficult to diagnosis and treat in a timely manner. Symptoms can sometimes be subtle or there may be none at all.
3. Don't delay going to the doctor
If you have symptoms of a blood clot, go get checked out by a physician. Don't delay going to the doctor. Early treatment can prevent many complications, including death.
4. Ask questions
It is OK to ask your doctor, "Could this be a blood clot?" Be proactive. Make sure your doctor is screening you for blood clots.
Immobility increases the risk of developing clots. Move your legs frequently when on long trips--such as when traveling by plane, bus, or car. If you've been sitting for a long period of time, stop and take a break to stretch your legs. Be active. Activity improves circulation.
Additional information about pregnancy and blood clots can be found at:
Pregnancy and blood clots: Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment -from Clot Connect
Pregnancy loss and clotting disorders - from Clot Connect
Recommendations to prevent blood clots during cesarean delivery - from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Blood clotting and pregnancy - resources from the American Society of Hematology
Thrombophilia and pregnancy - from the March of Dimes
Pregnancy and blood clots - from the This is Serious campaign
1.Kamel H et al. Risk of a Thrombotic Event after the 6-Week Postpartum Period. N Engl J Med, Feb 13,2014.
2. Heit JA, Kobbervig CE, James AH, Petterson TM,Bailey KR, Melton LJ, 3rd. Trends in the incidenceof venous thromboembolism during pregnancy or postpartum: a 30-year population-based study. Ann Intern Med 2005;143(10):697-706