Blood Clots During Pregnancy

When you have a cut on your skin, platelets in your blood rush to the area in order to stop the flow of blood. Those platelets create a blood clot. Normally, this is a natural thing that helps your body. But blood clots during pregnancy might be a very different story. When you are pregnant, your blood is more likely to clot in order to help you avoid losing too much blood during labor and delivery. But sometimes, this clotting mechanism can lead to the formation of blood clot during pregnancy that causes risks for you or your unborn child. Here's what you need to know about this rare problem.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Blood Clots During Pregnancy?

Keep in mind that blood clots during pregnancy are rare. There are some signs and symptoms to watch out, which might indicate a blood clot. These include significant swelling or pain in one part of your body, especially in the legs. You might also notice that the pain gets worse as you move around or walk. The veins might look larger than normal as well, and might even look raised as though they were jutting out from your skin.

What Causes the Blood Clots During Pregnancy?

Though some blood clots tend to happen for no apparent reason, there are usually some causes that doctors can pinpoint. The most common reasons for blood clots during pregnancy include:

  • Increased clotting, which is actually a survival mechanism. Your body recognizes the possibility of bleeding during labor and delivery, and increases clotting potential to avoid losing too much blood.
  • The blood flow through your veins slows down during pregnancy, thanks to the hormones that are surging through your body. This slower flow can make your blood more likely to clot.
  • Damage to your veins can sometimes occur from the pressure of your baby's weight on your body, especially on the veins in your legs. This damage might be slight, but it can be enough to lead to blood clots during pregnancy and even several weeks after delivering.

Will the Blood Clots During Pregnancy Affect the Baby?

In some cases, blood clots can be treated without worrying about the unborn baby. However, there are some cases in which the situation could become serious. A blood clot that breaks off and travels through your body could lodge in your lungs, leading to a pulmonary embolism – a serious condition that requires immediate help. Blood clots might also form inside the placenta, in the umbilical cord, or in other areas of the body, which can affect the baby and lead to serious problems.

However, good medical care can help prevent these serious issues. Your doctor will look at suspected blood clots with ultrasound, CT scans and other options. That can really help determine your risk of something going wrong.

How to Treat Blood Clots During Pregnancy

If you do develop blood clots during pregnancy, there are some treatments that might help. Blood thinners, such as heparin, can be injected. These will help reduce the clotting mechanism of your blood, which can help you alleviate or avoid clots. These treatments will take place during your entire pregnancy and even beyond that. Other options include wearing compression stockings, which can assist the flow of blood through your legs and help you avoid some of the most common clots.

Some medications that are commonly used for blood clots, such as warfarin, are unsafe during pregnancy and should not be considered.

How to Prevent Blood Clots During Pregnancy

Though no one knows if you will develop blood clots during pregnancy, there are certain risk factors that can make the problem more likely. These include a family history of blood clots, health problems like diabetes or hypertension, being pregnant with multiples, dehydration, being of advanced maternal age, having a cesarean delivery, and using oral contraceptives before pregnancy.

So you'd better prevent the issue by keeping tabs on the following points:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, try to reduce it before pregnancy to a body mass index of 30 or below.
  • Eat right. Drink lots of water, eliminate salt from your diet as much as you can, and look for a balanced diet filled with leafy greens, lean proteins and the right kind of carbohydrates.
  • Move around. Leading a sedentary lifestyle can make you much more prone to blood clots throughout the body. Get some exercise every day, even if it is only a simple stroll around the block.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking increases your risk of blood clots dramatically, even if you are not pregnant. When you are pregnant, the risk skyrockets. Don't smoke and stay away from second-hand smoke, too.
  • Use compression. Compression stockings press gently on your legs to help the blood flow through them. This is especially important if you will be traveling or are on bed for rest.
  • Talk to your doctor. Let your doctor know about any symptoms that trouble you, and be sure to mention if there is any history of blood clots in your family, including blood clots during pregnancy. 
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