WellSpan Home

Pregnancy and the Increased Risk of Developing Blood Clots

Topic Overview

Pregnant women have a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.footnote 1

What raises the risk of blood clots during pregnancy?

The three main risk factors (things that increase risk) for developing deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism are abnormal clotting, reduced blood flow, and damage to the veins. These risks are all higher during pregnancy, most likely because of:

  • Changes in hormone levels and blood composition that influence clotting.
  • Reduced blood flow in the legs due to the weight of the fetus pressing upon veins.
  • Injury to veins during delivery or surgery.
  • Inactivity after cesarean section surgery or delivery.

Women who are obese, are older than 35, or have a family or personal history of blood clots have a higher risk of developing a clot that can lead to pulmonary embolism.

After delivery, the risk for blood clots is higher than during pregnancy. This risk usually returns to normal after a few weeks after delivery.footnote 2

If a woman has a cesarean section, she is even more likely to develop one or more of these clots.

Who is screened for risk of blood clots?

Women with the following history may be screened for genetic factors that can increase the risk of forming blood clots:

  • A personal or family history of deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism
  • Repeated miscarriages, especially during the second trimester
  • Stillbirth
  • Severe or recurrent low birth weight (intrauterine growth restriction)
  • Preeclampsia

How are blood clots prevented?

For pregnant women who are more likely to develop blood clots, several methods may be used to prevent deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. These include:

How are blood clots treated?

A pregnant woman who is diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism will work with her doctor to decide which anticoagulant medicine to take during pregnancy. She may take heparin, because it has not been shown to affect the fetus.

After delivery, the woman might take another anticoagulant for a few weeks or a few months.

References

Citations

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2011). Thromboembolism in pregnancy. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 123. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 118(3): 718-729.
  2. Tapson VF, Becker RC (2007). Venous thromboembolism. In EJ Topol, ed., Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 3rd ed., pp. 1569-1584. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJeffrey S. Ginsberg, MD - Hematology

Current as ofNovember 21, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×