If you’re expecting, you’ve probably heard about some of the potential complications, like preeclampsia, varicose veins, and gestational diabetes.
But there’s another complication that’s not known as widely or discussed as frequently, although it causes more deaths: deep vein thrombosis, or DVT.
In fact, lung clots caused by DVT are the top cause of maternal death in the developed world. What’s more, pregnant women are five times more likely to develop DVT than women who aren’t pregnant.
At Vein & Cardiovascular Center, Ashish Pal, MD, helps pregnant women in Orlando, Sebring, and Davenport, Florida, understand their risks of DVT and learn how to recognize the symptoms, providing advanced DVT treatments aimed at helping moms-to-be stay healthy.
If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, here’s what you need to know about DVT and its risks.
DVT and pregnancy
DVT happens when blood flow in your legs slows down, allowing clots to form inside the veins. A clot that breaks away and travels to your lungs can cause a pulmonary embolism, a potentially deadly complication of DVT.
You can develop DVT (and blood clots) whether you’re pregnant or not, but they’re more common when you’re expecting and for about three months after delivery.
One reason is that a developing baby compresses the veins in your pelvis, interfering with normal blood flow and increasing the risk of clot development.
But a lot of that increased DVT risk has to do with the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy. Increases in some pregnancy hormones make it a little easier for your blood to clot — a way your body prepares for potential bleeding during delivery.
After pregnancy, your risk of DVT remains elevated for about three months — about the time it takes for your hormone levels to normalize.
DVT causes an array of symptoms that can help you identify when it’s time to be evaluated by Dr. Pal. The most common symptoms include:
- Leg cramps
- Leg aching
- Swelling in your legs or feet
- An area of redness or warmth on your leg
- Pain when you bend your toes toward your knee
While you may have symptoms in both legs, it’s common to have symptoms in just one leg.
One problem with identifying DVT symptoms is that some of these symptoms — like leg cramps, aching legs, and swelling — can occur as a symptom of pregnancy even without DVT.
That’s why it’s so important to have your symptoms evaluated rather than simply ignore them.
Risk factors for DVT
Some women are more prone to developing DVT during pregnancy, including those who:
- Are 35 or older
- Spend a lot of time sitting
- Are overweight or obese
- Are carrying twins or other multiples
- Have hypertension or varicose veins
- Have had a recent cesarean delivery
- Have had fertility treatments
A personal or family history of DVT or clots also raises your risk of these complications during pregnancy.
Preventing and treating DVT
Knowing your risk factors and seeking medical treatment at the first sign of symptoms are the best ways to prevent the complications of DVT. You can also reduce your risks by staying active during pregnancy and avoiding sitting for long periods.
If you do have DVT, Dr. Pal recommends a treatment based on clot location and other factors (including your pregnancy). Many clots can be treated using medication to help dissolve them.
Minimally invasive procedures are another option, along with surgical procedures to remove the clot or to place a filter inside your vein to prevent a clot from traveling to your lungs.
Don’t ignore the symptoms of DVT
It’s true — sometimes, leg pains and swelling are just a consequence of pregnancy. But they can also be a sign of DVT. The only way to know for sure is to have a thorough evaluation.
To schedule your evaluation with Dr. Pal or to learn more about your risks of DVT, book an appointment online or over the phone with Vein & Cardiovascular Center today.