Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman’s life, but it can come with a fair share of unpleasant symptoms, like morning sickness and nausea. Pregnancy also increases a woman’s risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a preventable medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, typically in the lower leg, thigh, or pelvis. Blood clots block the flow of blood and can develop almost anywhere in your body, but a clot that develops in the arms or legs can lead to circulation problems.
During pregnancy, women experience a swift and significant rise in estrogen, which leads to a condition called hypercoagulation. As more estrogen passes through the liver, the liver increases the production of blood-clotting factors (proteins in the blood that help control bleeding). Hypercoagulation causes the blood to clot more easily than normal. While this is considered a good thing during pregnancy, because it helps minimize blood loss and lowers the risk of hemorrhaging during labor and delivery, it can infrequently also lead to reduced blood flow to the legs and increased risk of dangerous blood clots.
Pregnancy and DVT risk factors
There are several causes of deep vein thrombosis for nonpregnant women, like vein injury, surgery, and medications. However, certain things can increase your risk of developing DVT during pregnancy, such as:
- Being 35 or older
- History of blood clots (before, during, or after pregnancy)
- Family history of blood clots
- Multiple births
- Excess body fat
- Hormonal fertility treatments
- Prolonged immobility (e.g., bed rest, travel)
Pregnancy and DVT symptoms
DVT is not common in pregnancy, but it can be a serious or even fatal medical complication if a blood clot dislodges. If a blood clot in your leg breaks away and moves to the lungs, it is known as a pulmonary embolism. That’s why it’s important to understand the symptoms and talk to your healthcare provider about safe, effective treatment immediately if you suspect DVT. Early intervention can help keep you and your growing baby safe. Common warning signs of DVT include:
- Pain or extreme tenderness in one of your legs
- Pain in the leg when standing or moving
- Warm skin in the affected area
- Red skin at the back of the leg (below the knee)
- Slight to severe swelling
Treating DVT during pregnancy
If you experience symptoms of DVT during pregnancy, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider right away. Blood clots do not affect the health of the baby unless there are serious complications, but they can be fatal for the woman if left untreated. Your healthcare provider can stop the clot from getting bigger, help it dissolve, and reduce your risk of further clots.
During pregnancy, a blood clot in the legs will be primarily treated by your obstetrician or other provider managing your pregnancy. Before pregnancy, if you have signs of the risk factors for DVT, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a Virginia Vein Care location near you for expert care and treatment of deep vein insufficiency, the signs of which are swollen, heavy, tired legs or bulging varicose veins. Our specialists are skilled and experienced in the safe treatment of all vein problems like spider veins, varicose veins, venous insufficiency, and deep vein thrombosis.