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Blood clots during pregnancy: Symptoms and causes

Pregnant women are at a higher risk of getting blood clots. Can it cause a miscarriage? Let us tell you everything about blood clots during pregnancy.

Blood clot, also known as venous thromboembolism, is a mass of blood that gets formed when our blood turns solid. You will generally spot blood clots after a cut or injury. That is our body’s way of stopping bleeding. Anyone can end up with blood clots, but if you are pregnant then the chances are higher. Dehydration and reduced mobility can lead to blood clot formation. At times, blood clots can cause problems for the mother and the baby. There may be even chances of a miscarriage. We tell you the causes of blood clots during pregnancy and what to do about it.

What are blood clots?

Blood clots are gel-like masses of blood that form in the blood vessels. They are a natural part of the recovery process because they play a role in preventing blood loss from an injury, says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Arpi Sagar Lodha.

Blood clot during pregnancy
Obesity may lead to blood clot formation. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Factors that may lead to formation of blood clots –

  • Injury to blood vessels
  • Lack of exercise such as staying idle for long hours
  • Surgery
  • Medical conditions like obesity, cancer, heart diseases.

What are the causes of blood clots during pregnancy?

Pregnant women or those who recently became a mother have a higher risk of blood clots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The body usually produces more clotting agents in preparation for delivery to avoid much blood loss.

There are more causes –

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  • If a woman has a history of blood clots or has a family history of the same, she is more likely to develop them when pregnant.
  • Compared to vaginal delivery, C-section leads to more immobility as well as tissue injury, making it more likely for blood clots to occur.
  • Dehydration can lead to blood thickening and, consequently, increased clotting.
  • Bed rest can lead to the stagnation of blood circulation in the lower extremities and raise the possibility of clotting.

What are the symptoms of blood clots during pregnancy?

Early diagnosis of blood clots while pregnant is critical. While certain symptoms may be mild, a woman ought to be conscious of potential indicators and seek medical assistance as soon as they appear.

  • Leg discomfort can be subtle or acute, and is usually limited to one thigh or calf.
  • One of the legs may become more swollen than the other.
  • The affected limb may feel sensitive to the touch.
  • The area surrounding the clot could be warmer than the other leg.
  • In certain situations, the skin may get red or discoloured, especially around the back of the leg.

Blood clot in the legs is common, but sometimes it can travel to the lungs. Known as a pulmonary embolism, it can be life threatening. Here are some signs –

  • Breathing problem
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing up blood
  • Irregular heartbeat

Can blood clots lead to miscarriage?

Yes, blood clots can lead to a miscarriage, although it is not a common reason for this occurrence, says Dr Lodha.

Some reasons might be –

1. Placental blood clots

Blood clots can also develop in the placental tissues, which is the nutrient source of the baby. If this occurs in a part of the placenta where clots have occurred then the baby can be denied oxygen and nutrients, and lead to miscarriage.

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2. Underlying clotting disorders

Women with unrecognised inherited clotting disorders are at higher risk of miscarriage because of the propensity for placental clots, says the expert.

Graphic representation of a blood clot during pregnancy
Blood clots can be an issue for the mom and the baby. Image Courtesy: Freepik

Blood clots can basically be a problem for both the mother and the baby. In the mother, a clot can travel to the lungs, resulting in severe shortness of breath and could prove fatal. For the baby, placental blood clots can come in the way of the flow of vital nutrients and oxygen, raising the possibility of a miscarriage or inhibiting growth. Occasionally, clotting problems could lead to preeclampsia, one of the pregnancy complications that affects the health of the baby.

How to treat blood clot during pregnancy?

Pregnant women, who experience a blood clot during pregnancy or after giving birth, may be given low-molecular weight heparin, which is a medicine injected under the skin. It is used not only to treat blood clots during pregnancy, but also to prevent them.

How to prevent blood clots during pregnancy?

While pregnancy enhances the possibility of blood clots, there are several activities women may do to reduce it –

1. Stay active

Do exercise, but only pick the ones advised by your doctor. Working out regularly can help in proper blood flow and also, minimise the formation of blood clots. Just don’t overdo it.

2. Move frequently

If you are not doing prenatal yoga or low-intensity exercises, move around. You can simple walk in your house or a nearby park.  Do not sit for long hours, as reduced mobility is one of the causes of blood clot formation.

3. Hydrate

Drinking water and healthy beverages helps reduce the blood thickness and circulation. If you are dehydrated, blood will get thicker and will not flow normally, says the expert.

4. Maintain a healthy weight

Yes, you do gain weight when you get pregnant. But try to prevent obesity, as it is a major factor in the formation of blood clots. Eat healthy and do physical activities for weight management during pregnancy.

5. Discuss risk factors with your doctor

In the case of a past medical history, or if there is a medical condition that might lead to the formation of blood clots, you should consult with your doctor about other precautions to take.

Pregnant women are more prone to get blood clots, which usually get formed in legs. Blood clots during pregnancy can be prevented by managing weight, and staying hydrated.

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