What your need to know about developing blood clots, or DVT, during your pregnancy or following birth.
Deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, occurs when a blood clot forms in a large, deep vein such as those in your legs. Women are 10 times more likely to develop DVT during pregnancy, or the six weeks after birth, than at any other time. While that sounds like a lot, DVT still isn’t that common - only around one or two women in every 1,000 develop DVT during pregnancy or shortly after birth.
One reason for the increased risk of DVT is because your blood clots more easily in pregnancy, possibly to help prevent bleeding after birth.
Another reason is slower blood flow. Your circulation is more sluggish in pregnancy because higher progesterone levels relax your veins, and because you might be doing less activity.
Symptoms of DVT often include:
If you have any of these, contact your midwife or GP at once.
DVT is often diagnosed by a scan. Blood-thinning medication can be prescribed to stop the blood clot getting bigger, allowing your body to dissolve the clot. It’s given by injection (you’ll be shown how to do this for yourself). If a blood clot is found while you’re pregnant, you’ll also be advised to wear an elastic compression stocking for the rest of your pregnancy and in the first few weeks after birth. You’ll have regular check-ups and blood tests for the rest of your pregnancy, but won’t have to stay in hospital.
In rare cases, DVT isn’t diagnosed unless a complication, like a pulmonary embolus, occurs. If this happens you may experience:
Knowing what to look for can help you detect DVT quickly, and once it has been diagnosed and treated, the risk of it being fatal is extremely small.
Anne Richley, midwife
“During my pregnancy my legs were painful and swelled to nearly twice their size. My GP suspected DVT and sent me for scans. Although they didn’t find a clot, I had injections to thin my blood and prevent clots.”
Caroline, 33, mum to Bronwyn, 17 months, and Leighton, 13 weeks
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