Pregnancy is a risk factor for the development of a blood clots with an incidence that is 4 to 50 times higher compared to non-pregnant women. Increased risk for development of a blood clot is highest in the postpartum period, with the most common occurrence of clot formation in left lower extremity and pelvis.
A blood clot, or venous thromboembolis (VTE) can manifest during pregnancy as a lower extremity deep vein blood clot, or it can break off from the lower extremities and travel to the lung, which is called a pulmonary embolus (PE). Pulmonary embolus is the seventh leading cause of maternal mortality or 9 percent of maternal deaths. Therefore, early detection of DVT during pregnancy is critical to preventing deaths caused by PE.
Pregnancy and the postpartum period are marked by the increased presence of components which contribute to the increased risk of DVT in pregnancy. Venous stasis of the lower extremities occurs during pregnancy because of two factors: increased blood volume, and hormonal changes to the lining of the veins. During pregnancy, lower extremity veins are subject to increased blood volume. Increased blood volume pared with hormonally induced dilation of the lower extremity veins leads to pooling of blood and causes incompetence in the valves. It is the pooling of blood in the veins that causes clots to form.
People sometimes form clots because they have been sitting for too long. If you travel on long airplane flight and are pregnant, you are at increased risk of blood clots. Here are some things you can do to help prevent a clots: walk around every few hours, do not smoke, wear comfortable clothes, drink plenty of water, wear compression stockings, shift position in your seat frequently and move your legs and feet often.
Although venous intervention is not recommended during pregnancy, if your symptoms are concerning to you, an ultrasound can be performed for evaluation of DVT or venous insufficiency without harm or risk to you or your baby.