Understanding and Preventing DVT in Pregnancy

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) has been highlighted in the news in the past few years, with headlines focusing mainly on risk of DVT on long haul flights. But the reality is pregnant women are more likely to develop DVT than people on long haul flights. According to the figures from the NHS, the absolute DVT risk on long haul flights is 1 for every 4,656 flights whilst 1 in 1,000 women develop DVT at some of their pregnancy.

During pregnancy, your blood clots more easily. It is nature’s way of ensuring that you don’t bleed heavily in childbirth. Hence, your risk of DVT is 10 times more when you are pregnant.

What is DVT?

When blood clots develop in your vein, it is known as venous thrombosis, which usually occurs in the pelvic or leg veins. There are two types of thrombosis, Superficial Vein Thrombosis (SVT) also known as Phlebitis, and Deep Vein Thrombosis.

SVT happens when a clot develops in a vein that is close to the skin surface.  Usually, it is not life threatening. It mends and goes away within 2 to 6 weeks.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT, on the other hand is more serious and can have life threatening complication. As its name implies, DVT occurs in the deep vein and the clots has the potential to break away and travel through the blood stream and get stuck in the lung’s blood vessel. This condition is known as Pulmonary Embolism and can be deadly.  According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, in the UK and the USA, Deep Vein Thrombosis kills more people than Prostate Cancer, Breast Cancer, AIDS and traffic accidents combined. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of DVT or Pulmonary Embolism, contact your GP immediately. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Early diagnosis and urgent action are vital.

Symptoms of DVT

Sudden swelling of the leg (usually on just one leg, and particularly around your calf)
Pain, which may increase when you are bending your foot towards your knee
Skin redness or discoloration, usually at the back of your leg, just below your knee
Warm skin where the clot is

Symptoms of Pulmonary Embolism

Shortness of breath, gradually or suddenly
Sharp chest pain, which may feel worse when you are breathing in, coughing or simply moving
Upper back pain
Extreme sweating
Sudden collapse

Preventing DVT in Pregnancy

Stay active daily as much as you can (walking and swimming are great exercise during pregnancy)
Wear prescribed compression socks to help circulation in your leg
Drink plenty of water
Don’t be on your feet for too long
If you have to sit for a long period, stretch your legs, flex your feet towards your knee and rotate your ankles every 20 minutes. And get up walk around for 5 minutes every hour.

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