For Patients

I am pregnant.

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)pregnancy image

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
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • 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:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration (bluish or reddish)
  • Warmth

Pulmonary Embolism (PE):

A blood clot in the lungs.  The classic symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain (may be worse with deep breath)
  • Unexplained cough (may cough up blood)
  • Unexplained rapid heart rate 
If you suspect a blood clot, get medical attention right away.  Don't delay.
2. Diagnosis

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.

5. Move

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

I am a woman who has experienced pregnancy loss--what do I need to know about blood clots? - 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

 

References

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