Deep-Vein Thrombosis, abbreviated DVT, is a blood clot that develops in the leg, thigh or pelvis of many women. While DVT is not common during pregnancy, statistics say that expectant women are 5 to 10 times more likely to develop deep-vein thrombosis, compared to their non- pregnant counterparts. Let’s take a closer look at this condition and what to do should you be affected.
Symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis
DVT cases in pregnant women is more common in the left leg. Some of the symptoms to look out for are such as:
- Pain in the leg when standing or moving around
- Pain in the leg that worsens whenever you bend your foot up towards your knee
- A feeling or warmth on the skin of the affected area
- Slight to severe swelling
- Red skin at the back of the leg, especially below the knee
How Is a DVT Diagnosis Reached?
It is not easy or even advisable to diagnose deep vein thrombosis from symptoms alone. Therefore, your doctor may order a test called a D-dimer test. These are used to identify tiny pieces of blood clots that might have spread into your bloodstream.
An ultrasound will also be carried to confirm DVT, this is because blood clot fragments tend to increase during pregnancy.
Additionally, a Doppler ultrasound will also be carried out in a bid to determine how fast blood flows through your blood vessels. The latter helps the doctor find out whether blood flow in a vessel is slowed or even blocked. Slowed or blocked blood flow can be ruled out as a sign of DVT.
In the event that a D-dimer test and an ultrasound doesn’t give a conclusive DVT diagnosis, your medical care provider may recommend a venogram. Thos test entails injecting a liquid substance known as liquid dye into one of the veins in your foot. The dye then moves up the leg, and can be picked up by X-ray. The X-ray helps spot a gap in the blood vessel at the point where blood flow slowed or blocked by a blood clot.
When Should You See a Doctor?
See a doctor as soon as suspect DVT. While it is not a medical emergency, and is unlikely to cause harm to you or your unborn child, unless there are serious complications arising, it is advisable that you get checked early.
DVT is easy to treat during pregnancy. Your general health practitioner will refer you to a specialist obstetrician, hematologist (blood specialist), or maternal medicine or obstetric medicine specialist.
To treat DVT, your doctor will prescribe a blood thinning agent called heparin, which will be injected daily to:
- Prevent the clot from becoming bigger.
- Help the clot dissolve in the body.
- Reduce the incidence of further clots.
After this, you will be required to have regular checkups as well as blood tests so as to ensure that the clot has dissolved, and that no further clots have developed.
It is recommended that you seek treatment immediately you experience DVT symptoms. This is because long-term deep vein thrombosis can result in permanent swelling of the veins in your foot, as well as immense fluid retention. In rare cases, the clot may dislodge and move up towards the lungs, resulting in a pulmonary embolism (PE).
When are You at Risk?
Risk factors that may make you susceptible to DVT during pregnancy are:
- Previous history of DVT or blood clots
- Family history of DVT
- Being over 35 years
- Having a BMI of 30 and above
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Being obese or overweight
- If you are undergoing fertility treatment
- If you are pregnant with twins or multiple babies
- Sitting in one position for long periods of time
- If you had a previous, recent cesarean section
- If you suffer from preeclampsia, or chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and inflammatory bowel disease
- Severe varicose veins
Prevention of Deep Vein Thrombosis
Unfortunately, nothing can be done to prevent DVT. However, there are a few preventive steps that you can take to reduce your risk. These are:
- Engage in safe exercise
- Whenever you travel by flight, ensure that you adorn flight socks and walk around at least once or twice every hour
- Stop smoking
- Watch your weight (track your pregnancy using our pregnancy weight tracker here.)
- Avoid sitting still in one position for long hours, pregnant or not.
- Develop a habit of moving your feet up and down whenever you sit
- Wear a support hose for your tummy so as to reduce pressure on your feet
- In case you notice pain, tenderness, redness or swelling in your legs, rush to your doctor’s clinic.
#Please note that development differs from one child to another.
#Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.
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Last reviewed January 2019
Sources: americanpregnancy, stoptheclot, medicinenet, whattoexpect