Veins carry blood to and from the heart to all parts of the body. Sometimes the process of free flowing blood in the veins can be hindered by blood clots. This is called venous thrombosis. Medically stating, the formation of thrombus in the veins is referred to as venous thromboembolism (VTE) and it can occur in any part of the body - clinically predominant site being the veins in the legs. When clot forms deep in the veins in the legs, and the clot breaks loose and travels to the lungs it is called pulmonary embolism or PE.
Venous thromboembolism is not common but during pregnancy women are more prone to it than when non-pregnant. When deep vein thrombosis occurs to you during pregnancy, the clots under the skin are visible in the back of your legs or in the calf or pelvis region.
Chances of venous thromboembolism during pregnancy
During pregnancy you are at a risk of getting deep vein blood clots and a chance of acquiring clots is highest in the first three weeks after you’ve given birth. Some of the common reasons for this are:
- During pregnancy the blood is prone to clotting because it is thicker than usual. It may be your body’s way of allowing the placenta to work efficiently and helping you lose less blood during labor, but this does make you prone to developing clots
- Because of the pregnancy hormones and larger uterus, the blood flowing through the veins from the heart to the legs is slower than usual
- The chances of clot in the legs are also increased by slight damage to the veins during child birth. As you press hard for child birth, the veins in the legs can damage increase the chance for developing clots.
The abovementioned reasons sound alarming but it’s worth noting that there is a very small chance of pregnant women developing blood clots. This can be avoided with some of the following tips.
Prevent blood clot formation
Following the below mentioned tips, a pregnant woman can decrease chances of developing blood clots in the veins.
- Do not smoke during pregnancy
- Stay hydrated – drink lots of fluids, including water
- Eat healthy, as prescribed by your nutritionist
- Exercise regularly. Walking and swimming can be included in the daily routine
Symptoms of venous thromboembolism
- Redness in the skin
- Swelling, tenderness and pain in the legs (swelling in the legs is normal in pregnancy, therefore check for other symptoms before considering it a problem)
- Change in size of the veins in the legs
- Warm feeling in the skin, where the clot is suspected
Venous thromboembolism or clot in the veins if not treated can be dangerous. The clot can break loose and travel to the lungs. This situation (as mentioned) is called pulmonary embolism and may require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of PE include:
- Feeling of breathlessness and sudden difficulty in breathing
- Heaviness and pain in the chest
- Persistent cough and blood in saliva
- Sudden blackouts