Tennis star Serena Williams spoke out about the life-threatening complications she experienced after the birth of her daughter. Unfortunately, Williams is not alone with post-delivery blood clot complications. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 5 women who deliver in the U.S. each year have a blood clot during pregnancy and 1 in 4 experience a blood clot complication during labor or delivery.
Blood clots in pregnant women tend to form in the deep veins of the legs or in the pelvic area, a condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). When a DVT breaks off and travels to the lungs, the life-threatening event is called pulmonary embolism (PE). Both DVT and PE are highly preventable under regular medical care.
“Pregnant women are at higher risk for blood clots because they have an extra volume of blood and lots of estrogen,” says Margie Brandquist, Certified Nurse-Midwife at StoneSprings Hospital. Women on birth control pills that contain estrogen are at a similar increased risk.
The risk of developing a blood clot during pregnancy is further increased by
Previous blood clots
A genetic predisposition to blood clots
Prolonged immobility (like bedrest or long-distance travel)
Increased maternal age
Having a C-section
Know the warning signs
“It’s important for pregnant women to know the signs of a blood clot and to call if they experience any of them instead of waiting to see if it will resolve,” advises Margie Brandquist. A healthcare professional will be able to easily see if your discomfort is due to a pregnancy blood clot by performing a simple ultrasound of the area.
- Pain in a large muscle, like a calf or thigh without an obvious injury
- Redness or swelling with pain to the touch
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Typically, blood clots are treated with a blood thinner, also known as an anticoagulant. Certain anticoagulants are safe to use during pregnancy.
Prevention during pregnancy
Keep moving - Stay active and maintain a healthy weight
Get up during travel - If you have to fly or drive a long distance, stand up and move around every hour and do light exercises while seated, like ankle rolls. Your doctor may also recommend compression stockings.
Drink lots of water - Staying hydrated during pregnancy helps prevent clots by keeping blood thinner.
Err on the side of caution - If you experience any signs of DVT, call or visit your doctor immediately.
For personal care during pregnancy, turn to StoneSprings Hospital. Learn more about our Pregnancy and Birth services at stonespringshospital.com/service/pregnancy-and-birth.