While everyone is at risk for developing a blood clot (also called venous thromboembolism), pregnancy increases that risk fivefold. Available evidence shows that women are at risk for developing blood clots during pregnancy, childbirth, and the three-month period after delivery.
During pregnancy, a woman’s blood clots more easily to lessen blood loss during labor and delivery. Pregnant women may also experience less blood flow to the legs later in pregnancy because the blood vessels around the pelvis are pressed upon by the growing baby.
There are several other factors which may also increase a pregnant woman’s risk for a blood clot. These include;
- A family or personal history of blood clots or a blood clotting disorder
- Delivery by C-section
- Prolonged immobility (not moving a lot), such as during bed rest or recovery after delivery
- Complications of pregnancy and childbirth
- Certain long-term medical conditions, such as heart or lung conditions, or diabetes
It’s important to know that too many women die from pregnancy-related complications and many more experience severe-pregnancy-related complications. Knowing the signs and symptoms of a blood clot is important to protect yourself and your baby during pregnancy and after delivery.
For example, a blood clot occurring in the legs or arms is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Here are some of the signs and symptoms of DVT;
- Swelling of the affected limb
- Pain or tenderness not caused by injury
- Skin that is warm to the touch, red, or discolored
A blood clot in the legs or arms can break off and travel to the lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE) and it can be life-threatening.
Here are some of the signs and symptoms of a pulmonary embolism;
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain that worsens with a deep breath or cough
- Coughing up blood
- Faster than normal or irregular heartbeat
- Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these signs or symptoms.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about factors that might increase your risk for a blood clot. Let your provider know if you or anyone else in your family has ever had a blood clot.
- Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions closely during pregnancy and after delivery.
The authors are; Lilian Nuwabaine Luyima; BSc Nurse & MSN-Midwife & Women’s’ Health Specialist & and Aisha Naava; a Nursing officer working with Kawolo General Hospital