Blood clots during pregnancy could put you at risk

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Women are five times more likely to have life-threatening blood clots during pregnancy. Here's how to avoid them.

Without a doubt, we can term our blood’s ability to clot as nature’s miracle. After all, without a clot, we could bleed to death with a minor cut. However, sometimes blood clots in places where we do not want it and can lead to serious health hazards.

In case of maternal health, blood clots during pregnancycan lead to serious complications for the mother as well as the developing baby.

Definition

A blood clot (medically known as a thrombosis) is a clump of blood that forms when blood changes from liquid to a gel/semi-solid state.

Blood clots usually appear to stop bleeding after a cut or an injury. But the problem arises when the blood clots partly or completely block the flow of blood in a blood vessel. This could lead to damage of body organs or even death.

blood clots during pregnancy

Blood clots partly or completely block the flow of blood in a blood vessel and this could lead to failure of body organs and can even cause death

How common are blood clots during pregnancy?

Almost 1 out of 1,000 women will be affected with blood clots during pregnancy. This is five times more than non-pregnant women. However, when you first hear the statistic, it sounds pretty bad. But what it really means is that pregnant women face about a 0.25 to 0.1 percent risk. Therefore highlighting that more than 99.5 percent of women won’t have this problem.

Why do pregnant women experience more blood clots?

A pregnant women’s blood clots easily to ready her body to lessen the blood loss during labour and child birth. Also, blood flow in your legs gets slower during the later part of the pregnancy. That’s because the blood vessels around your pelvis and other places are more narrow and your growing womb puts pressure on your pelvis.

Continue reading to know if you should be worried about blood clots during pregnancy

Should I be worried about blood clots during pregnancy?

Most women with blood clotting conditions still have healthy pregnancies. But these conditions may cause problems for some pregnant women and their babies. But testing and treatment can help save both you and your baby.

Here are some complications that may arise due to blood clots:

  • Blood clots in the placenta: The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. A blood clot in the placenta can stop blood flow to your baby.
  • Heart attack: This usually happens when a blood clot blocks blood and oxygen flow to the heart. Without blood and oxygen, the heart can’t pump blood well, and the affected heart muscle can die.
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR): Babies are diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) if they appear to be smaller than expected — specifically, if an ultrasound indicates that their weight is below the 10th percentile for their gestational age.
  • Miscarriage: A miscarriage is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Blood clots are a common cause of early miscarriage in the second trimester. 
  • Placental insufficiency: This is when the placenta doesn’t work as well as it should so your baby gets less food and oxygen.
  • Preeclampsia: It’s when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. It affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide.
  • Premature birth: This is when your baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE): An embolism is a blood clot that moves from where it formed to another place in the body. When the clot moves to a lung, it’s a PE. It can cause low oxygen levels in your blood and damage your body organs.
blood clots during pregnancy

Most pregnant women with blood clotting conditions still have healthy pregnancies, but it may still cause problems for other mothers

  • Stillbirth: This is when a baby dies in the womb before birth but after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Stroke: This happens when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that brings blood to the brain, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts open. Pregnancy and childbirth cause strokes in about 8 in 100,000 women. Stroke can cause lasting damage to the body.
  • Thrombosis: This happens when a blood clot forms in a blood vessel and blocks blood flow. It most often happens in the deep veins of the legs but can be in other places of the body:
  • Cerebral vein thrombosis (CVT): This happens when a blood clot forms in a vein in the brain. CVT can lead to stroke.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT): This happens when a blood clot forms in a vein deep in the body, usually in the lower leg or thigh. DVT can be diagnosed with an ultrasound.
  • Venous thromboembolism (VTE): This happens when a blood clot breaks off and travels through blood to vital organs, like the brain, lungs or heart. This condition includes DVT and PE. VTEs that block blood vessels in the brain or heart can cause stroke or heart attack.

Continue reading to know how to spot blood clots during pregnancy

How do I know if I have blood clots during pregnancy?

In pregnant women, blood clots develop mostly in the pelvis or legs. You might experience tenderness, swelling and discolouration in the affected area. Symptoms also include:

  • Difficulty with breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Anxiety
  • Intense coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

What are the risk factors?

Your risk of developing blood clots during pregnancy increases if you have a family history, or if you had developed a blood clot previously.

Apart from this, other factors that increase the risk of blood clots during pregnancy are:

  • Repeated miscarriages, especially during the second trimester
  • Stillbirth
  • Severe or recurrent low birth weight (intrauterine growth restriction)
  • Preeclampsia

blood clot pregnant

Treatment for pregnancy blood clots

Pregnant mothers with a history of blood clots should inform their doctor early and get tested for thromboembolism. The possible treatment options include the following:

  • Prescribed anticoagulant medicine: This is a substance that thins the blood. It will not break down the clot, but it will prevent the clot from growing, thereby, giving your body the opportunity to break it down naturally. One such medicine is heparin.
  • Wearing compression stockings: This can help prevent blood clots from forming in pregnant women, by reducing swelling.
  • Staying active: Try to do this for as long as possible to maintain good blood circulation. If your lifestyle is sedentary, make sure that you drink plenty of water and perform basic leg stretches, such as flexing your ankles.

Your gyneacologist may also refer you to a hematologist, who would treat blood conditions.

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