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Deep Vein Thrombosis in Pregnant women

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

Author: Valerie Ulai

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein in the body, usually in the leg [1].

Its Symptoms include [1];

  • Pain, swelling and tenderness in one leg, usually at the back of your lower leg (calf)-the pain may be worse when you bend your foot up towards your feet.

  • A heavy ache or warm skin in the affected area.

  • Red skin particularly at the back of your leg below the knee.

Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, and up to weeks after the birth, are more likely to develop DVT than non-pregnant women of the same age [2]. DVT in a pregnant woman doesn’t always have symptoms. Hence, during pregnancy, it’s common to experience swelling or discomfort in your legs, so this on its own doesn’t always mean there’s a serious problem [2].

However, the risk of developing DVT during pregnancy is even greater if the pregnant woman [1,2];

  • a close family member have had a blood clot before

  • Are over 35

  • Are obese (have a BMI of 30 or more)

  • Have had a severe infection or recent serious injury, such as a broken leg

  • Have a condition that makes clots more likely (thrombophilia)

  • Are carrying twins or multiple babies

  • Have had fertility treatment

  • Are having a caesarean section

  • Smoke

  • Have severe varicose veins (ones that are painful or above the knee with redness or swelling)

  • Are dehydrated

Complications from DVT can be very serious. The most serious complications of DVT happens when a part of the clot breaks off and travels through the bloodstream to the lungs, causing a blockage called Pulmonary Embolism (PE), resulting in chest pains, shortness of breath, sudden cough and rapid heartbeat [3,4]. Hence, about 1 in 10 people with DVT will have PE [3]. If the clot is small, and with appropriate treatment, people can recover from PE. However, if PE is severe it could cause some damage to the lungs that can be life-threatening such as heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, heart palpitation, and even death [3]. Other complications can include chronic venous insufficiency or post-thrombotic syndrome. It is when the clot stays in the leg or arm for too long, which can damage the vein or the valves [4]. Valves that don’t work right let blood flow backwards and pool, instead of pushing it towards the heart resulting in varicose veins, darkened skin colour, pain, swelling and skin sores [3].

To manage this, if a woman developed DVT while pregnant, anticoagulant injections of a drug called heparin can be given to stop the blood clot from getting bigger so the body can dissolve them [1,2]. The injection is usually given for the rest of the pregnancy and until at least 6 weeks after the birth of the baby [2]. But some women may need to have the injections for up to 3 months in total [2]. The injections also reduce the risk of getting PE and developing another cloth [1]. This drug doesn’t affect the developing baby [2].

A pregnant woman can avoid DVT by making healthy lifestyle choices. These include [2];

  • Staying as active as you can

  • Wearing prescribed compression stockings to help the circulation in your legs.

Travelling for longer than 4 hours (long haul travel) can increase the risk of developing DVT. It’s not known if this risk is greater during pregnancy, but to reduce the risk of DVT while travelling [1,2];

  • Drink plenty water

  • Avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy

  • Perform simple leg exercises, such as regularly flexing your ankles

  • If possible, walk about the street or village.

Therefore, DVT is a lifestyle disease and to avoid it and its complications simply make good healthy lifestyle choices.


1. DVT (deep vein thrombosis) – NHS. Available at . Access on April 14th 2021

2. Deep vein thrombosis in pregnancy – NHS. Available on . Access on April 14th 2021

3. Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Complications. Available on . Access on April 14th 2021

4. what are life threatening complications of having deep vein thrombosis - Google Search. Available on . Access on April 14th 2021

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