Of all the concerns you may have about pregnancy, chances are you don’t worry about blood clots. Yet your risk of developing a blood clot is five times higher compared to when you’re not pregnant. And unfortunately, venous blood clots cause 9% of pregnancy-related deaths.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is the most common venous blood clot that develops during pregnancy and after delivery. It’s essential for pregnant women to be aware of their risks and contact Kishore Arcot, MD, at Memphis Vein Center at the first sign of DVT.
Dr. Arcot can prevent serious complications by quickly diagnosing and safely treating the clot.
Thrombosis is another name for a blood clot. Blood clots develop when blood flow slows down or the vein wall is damaged. You can also end up with blood clots if you take certain medications or have a medical condition that increases clotting (thrombophilia).
When you have DVT, the clot develops in veins running through deep tissues. Clots can also form in the veins close to the skin’s surface, but they seldom cause complications.
Though DVTs can develop anywhere in your body, they most often affect your legs, where they can lead to serious problems. A DVT increases venous pressure and damages the valves in the veins.
As a result, they lead to varicose veins, skin conditions, and nonhealing venous stasis ulcers.
But a severe problem arises when the blood clot breaks free and travels through your body. If the clot reaches your lungs, it can cause a life-threatening pulmonary embolism.
Pregnancy raises the risk for DVT
When you’re pregnant, changes occur that make your blood clot more easily. This increase in clotting is essential because it reduces the blood loss during labor and delivery. But it increases your risk of developing DVT.
Leg circulation also slows down during pregnancy, especially in your third trimester. This occurs as the weight of the growing baby pushes against the vessels carrying blood in and out of your legs.
Your risk of DVT further increases if you have any other issues that contribute to blood clots. These risk factors include:
- Prior history of venous blood clots
- High blood pressure
You have a higher chance of DVT if you’re on bedrest for any medical reason during your pregnancy or after delivery.
DVT can occur after delivery
Your risk of developing a blood clot doesn’t stop after delivery. In fact, you’re more likely to have DVT in the first six weeks after having a baby than you were during pregnancy. Though your risk drops a little, your chances are still higher than normal for months after your delivery.
You should also know the signs of a pulmonary embolism: shortness of breath, chest pain, and a cough that may produce some blood. You may also have a fast heartbeat, dizziness, and excessive sweating.
A pulmonary embolism is a medical emergency, so dial 911 and get immediate care.
Throughout your pregnancy and in the months after your baby arrives, watch for the following DVT symptoms:
- Swelling of the affected leg
- Pain, cramping, or tenderness (not due to an injury)
- Warm-feeling skin
- Red or discolored skin
If you notice these symptoms, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. We determine if you have DVT with an in-office ultrasound. If a clot is present, we treat it with blood thinners or thrombolysis.
Thrombolysis is a minimally invasive procedure in which we guide a tiny catheter through your blood vessels to the DVT. Then we send medication through the catheter to dissolve the clot.
We’re here to help if you have any questions about blood clots during pregnancy. Call us at Memphis Vein Center in Memphis, Tennessee, or request an appointment online today.