The good news is that problems associated with blood clots during pregnancy are extremely rare. The bad news is that if unnoticed or left untreated, then it can lead to serious complications. So this is something you need to be aware of, but warrants no cause of panic.
What Is A Blood Clot? Are There Different Kinds Of Blood Clots?
Our blood is premeditated to clot. It is our body’s mechanism to not lose too much blood. When your hand gets a cut, for instance, your blood starts sending platelets to the cut as a means to “plug” the blood flow. This is all good, as blood clots help you not bleed to death. Blood clots, however, become a problem when they form inside a vein as opposed to the surface your skin. This condition is called venous thrombosis.
Am I At An Increased Risk Of Blood Clot During Pregnancy?
Yes you are! And the risk of blood clot continues to increase throughout your pregnancy and peaks in the first month after your delivery. That is because of increased levels of estrogen that makes the blood to clot easily.
While blood clots during pregnancy are rare (only one in thousand pregnant women are impacted), a pregnant women is more at a risk of getting a blood clot than non-pregnant women. This is because:
- Increased estrogen level during pregnancy increases the clotting property of the blood. This is to ensure a pregnant women does not lose too much blood during pregnancy or during child birth. However, this “increased clotting capability” can result in thrombosis
- Decreased blood flow to legs due to growing stomach also results in clots in legs and pelvic region (these are the two areas where blood clots are most often seen in pregnant women)
- Inactivity due to C-section
- Damage to veins in pelvic region due to normal delivery
Further, the chances of you getting a blood clot is higher in the following cases:
- You are 35+
- You smoke
- You are expecting multiples
- You are overweight
- You or family have a history of thrombosis
- You travel long distance during pregnancy
- You have had repeated miscarriages before
- You have to stay on bed for more than 3 days after giving birth
Are Blood Clots During Pregnancy Dangerous?
Yes, if it is left untreated.
An untreated blood clot can break away from its location and move to lungs, causing pulmonary embolism which is a dangerous situation for you. Similarly, if the clot is formed in the placenta, it can be dangerous to the baby as it can cut off blood supply to the fetus. Pregnant women generally develop blood clots in the deep veins of the legs, known as deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. You may notice that one of your legs is more unusually swollen, has turned reddish or bluish, or pain in the knee. DVT needs to be treated as it can lead to serious complications.
How Will I Know If I Have A Blood Clot?
If you have a blood clot in your legs or pelvic regions, you will notice the following:
- Pain and swelling in the affected leg (or sometimes both the legs)
- Bulging of veins in your legs
- Change in skin color (skin tends to go red)
- Warm feeling near the area of the clot
If you have a clot in your lungs, you will feel breathlessness, chest pain and might even collapse. This is a dangerous situation and you need to be moved to hospital on an emergency basis.
If you are worried about having a blood clot, or are not able to read the signs properly, then you can always talk to your doctor. An ultrasound of the affected area will reveal a clot. If the clot is in the lungs, then a spiral CT scan would be required.
How Are Blood Clots Treated During Pregnancy?
A pregnant woman diagnosed with venous thrombosis or pulmonary embolism needs to take a pregnancy-safe anticoagulant medicine that will limit blood’s clotting capability. If the clot is closer to the surface of the skin, a warm press (using a warm bath or hot water bag) can also help.
Can I Prevent Blood Clots During Pregnancy?
Yes you can! Follow the below tips to prevent blood clots:
- Stop smoking
- Drink plenty of water
- Ensure you do not become overweight during pregnancy – eat healthy
- Start exercising regularly (check with your doctor first)
- Do not sit idle for more than 20 minutes. Whether you have a desk job or travel long, make sure you move around every half an hour
- Reduce salt intake