Blood clots are a rare complication, but it’s important to understand that pregnancy does in fact make it up to ten times more likely that you will develop one. The risk of developing a blood clot also increases as your pregnancy progresses, and it is actually highest during the first three weeks after you give birth.
The most common type of blood clot during pregnancy is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a blood clot located in a vein far below the surface of your skin. DVT can occur in the deep veins in the back of your leg (up to 80% of DVT occurs in the left leg), calf or pelvis.
If you do have a DVT which isn’t treated, the clot can break away and end up becoming lodged in one of your lungs. This is called a pulmonary embolism (PE) and is an extremely serious condition that can be life-threatening.
Warning Signs and Symptoms of DVT
It’s common to have swelling and discomfort during and after pregnancy, particularly in your legs. There are, however, some warning signs you should be aware of which may indicate the presence of DVT. These symptoms are most likely to occur in one of your legs, even if the clot is actually located in your pelvis.
Some of these warning signs include:
- Veins in that appear larger than usual
- Redness or unusual skin color
- Skin that feels warmer in a specific area
- Pain or tenderness, particularly if it worsens when you walk
- Swelling, especially in one leg
How to Prevent DVT
There are some specific steps that you can take during your pregnancy to reduce your risk of developing DVT:
You should try to eat a diet that is low in fat and salt, high in fiber and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. This will help you to manage your weight during your pregnancy and keep your body at its healthiest.
Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is not only healthy, but it helps to prevent a wide range of pregnancy problems, from hemorrhoids, constipation and UTIs to DVT. It also helps to reduce swelling and get rid of excess salt.
If you haven’t already stopped smoking simply because you are pregnant, then the risk of DVT is another great reason to quit. Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
Regular exercise is a crucial element of preventing DVT. It improves circulation, helps to manage weight and can keep clots from forming. Consider walking, bicycling or swimming daily to improve circulation, particularly in your legs.
Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings put graduated pressure on your feet, lower legs and thighs, helping blood to circulate more quickly, which can assist in preventing or treating DVT. Many doctors suggest wearing them to decrease swelling and discomfort, as well as to help prevent deep vein thrombosis.
If you have any questions about your pregnancy or your risk of developing DVT, contact your physician.