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Thursday, September 07, 2017

How to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis during Pregnancy


Several physiological changes take place when a woman becomes pregnant. From morning sickness to swelling ankles and feet, the glow of being pregnancy also comes with less than ideal side effects. While most health conditions related to pregnancy are temporary and have a minimal impact on long-term health, expectant mothers are at risk of developing various medical issues that can be more serious. Deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, is one condition that requires some understanding and attention throughout one’s pregnancy.

Deep vein thrombosis is a condition where a blood clot forms, most often in the deep veins of the leg. When clotting takes place, the legs can become more swollen than usual, and women can experience ongoing pain or tenderness where the clot occurs. While DVT is not a serious threat to the well-being of an expectant mother, should the clot break off and travel to the lungs, the results could be life-altering. In the UK, deep vein thrombosis affects one in every 1,000 pregnancy women, and although this may not seem like an astonishing amount, pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing DVT than those who are not expecting. Here’s what pregnant women and their partners need to know about deep vein thrombosis, from the risk factors and symptoms to strategies for prevention.

High-risk Patients

Deep vein thrombosis can affect anyone at any point in adulthood, but pregnant women are at a much higher risk than others. Part of the increased possibility of developing DVTs can be linked to the rapid shift in hormones pregnant women experience from the beginning of their pregnancy up to six months after giving birth. Additionally, a growing baby places pressure on the pelvis which causes compression that could lead to clotting. In some cases in pregnant women the blood’s clotting agents change early in the process, creating a greater risk of developing DVsT later in the pregnancy.

In addition to these common physiological changes within pregnant women, individuals may be more at risk of experiencing deep vein thrombosis when they have previously been diagnosed with a blood clot, if they have recently had a caesarean section, or if they smoke. Women who are over the age of 35, those who have a body mass index of 30 or higher, or those who have undergone fertility treatment are also more likely to develop DVTs during pregnancy. Being immobile for extended periods of time and carrying multiple children during a single pregnancy also increase the risks.

Warning Signs

In most cases when a pregnant woman develops deep vein thrombosis, the warning signs are similar regardless of the cause. DVT is most often found in a single leg, not both, and can cause swelling of the legs or ankles, pain at the site where the clot occurred, or tenderness of the leg. Some may also experience a warming of the skin on the leg or redness that appears below or behind the knee.

Pregnant women should note that some of these symptoms are similar to other issues that naturally take place while carrying a child to term, many of which may not cause any harm aside from the occasional discomfort.

When any or a combination of these symptoms occur, and they seem out of the ordinary, medical attention should be sought out as soon as possible. Speaking with a medical professional about the discomfort that is taking place, when it began, and what’s being done to minimize the symptoms is pertinent to getting the correct diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

Ways to Prevent DVT during Pregnancy

While deep vein thrombosis has the potential to cause a variety of symptoms during one’s pregnancy, there are several steps to prevent it from taking place from the start. Eddie Chaloner, vein specialist at Radiance Vein Clinic, explains that preventing blood clotting throughout pregnancy always begins with ensuring the blood is flowing on a consistent basis. Regular exercise that is doctor-approved during one’s pregnancy, and walking or stretching a few times a day helps keep the blood flowing as it should. Similarly, not allowing the legs to be idle for extended periods of time is beneficial in preventing DVTs from developing. Lifting the legs while sitting or lying down helps in this regard.

If routine physical activity is not an easy option, Chaloner states that some doctors may prescribe compression stockings to help with consistent blood flow. Compression stockings are easily worn on the legs during the day, working to put slight pressure on the veins to reduce idle time. In addition to compression solutions, a doctor may also provide a preventative dose of an anticoagulant throughout the pregnancy, especially when a woman carries multiple risk factors.

When deep vein thrombosis is diagnosed and treated early on, the potential for a blood clot to break off and travel to the lungs is greatly reduced. Pregnant women and their partners can work to prevent DVTs from developing in the first place by focusing on being active during the pregnancy and speaking to a doctor as soon as any of the warning signs begin to show.

This is a guest blog entry.

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