7 Most Common Causes Of Blood Clot During Pregnancy

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Your pregnancy is a time of great joy and excitement, a time when you try to be as healthy as possible. While you might want to do what is safe for your unborn baby and you, sometimes, things don’t go according to plan.

Experiencing blood clots is a serious health concern and one that can lead to much anxiety when you are expecting. However, don’t panic if you suffer from a blood clot during pregnancy. Consult your doctor for the best course of action. In the meanwhile, read our post below and learn more about blood clots and how they affect pregnancy here.

What Is A Blood Clot?

A blood clot is a type of clump that occurs when the blood hardens and turns semi-solid or solid. A blood clot is typically a serious health concern and can lead to all sorts of complications during pregnancy. While a blood clot during your pregnancy can affect your unborn baby as well, it is a rare condition.

A blood clot forms when your body sends across its platelets, which are also known as cells, to stop blood flow. In most cases, your body sends signals when you suffer from a cut or when you receive an injury where you suffer from excessive bleeding, and your body needs to make it stop. When you are pregnant, your body may sometimes send signals to block blood flow. For instance, when you go into labor and deliver your baby [1].

Types Of Blood Clots

Blood clots can be of the following two types:

1. Thrombus:

If you suffer a blood clot inside any of your veins or your arteries, it could lead to a condition that is known as a thrombus. In some cases, a thrombus can also form inside your heart.

2. Embolus:

Sometimes, a thrombus can come out loose and move from one part of your body to another. Such type of a blood clot is known as an embolus.

Whether you suffer from a thrombus or an embolus, it can partially or even completely block the flow of blood in your blood vessels. As a result, you could suffer from the following problems:

  • If you suffer from a blockage in your artery, it can prevent the oxygen that tries to reach the tissues that are present in that particular area. Such a condition is known as ischemia. It is a very serious condition, and if not treated on time, it can also lead to damage in your tissues or even turn fatal.
  • If you suffer from a blockage in your vein, it can cause a fluid buildup in that area and can result in swelling.

[ Read: Eclampsia During Pregnancy ]

What Causes Blood Clots During Pregnancy?

Here are some of the most common causes that could lead to a blood clot while you are pregnant:

  • If you have been suffering from some or the other medical condition and, have been on bed rest for a long time.
  • If you sit with your legs crossed for long hours at a time, or if you sit down for a long stretch of time while traveling or working.
  • You can also suffer from blood clots if you do not have enough water or fluids that could lead you to become dehydrated.
  • If you have had surgery recently or suffered from an injury in the near past.
  • If you are overweight or have any diseases that have affected your liver or kidney.
  • If you have cholesterol buildup in your body that can narrow down your artery and can potentially change or even slow down the flow of blood in that particular area. In such a case, you will be more likely to have a blood clot or thrombus.
  • You may also suffer from a blood clot if you have a family history of the same and in some cases it can be a hereditary issue. If you are prone to such a condition, you will be more at risk of having abnormal blood clots.

Some of the inherited medical conditions that could potentially increase your risk of a blood clot are prothrombin G20210A mutation and factor V Leiden thrombophilia. There are some more inherited medical conditions that are comparatively rare but can also increase your chances of suffering from a blood clot. Such conditions are protein C, protein S and antithrombin III deficiencies.

Study To Understand The Cause Of Blood Clots In Pregnant Women

While there are various factors that can increase your chances of suffering from a blood clot while you are pregnant, some of the most common ones are extra weight gain or obesity, being a chain smoker or if you are older than 35 years of age.
Here is a study that was done to check for the reasons that could lead to a potential blood clot in women who are pregnant:

  • For the particular study, researchers wanted to find out the cause of what could lead to blood clots in women who were pregnant. To check the same, researchers studied data from almost 400,000 cases of pregnancy that had taken place between the years 1995 and 2009.
  • The study found that all those mothers who had recently given birth and were obese or overweight had a four times higher chance of developing a blood clot.
  • Also, all those mothers who had delivered a baby through the cesarean section method, had a lot of bleeding during pregnancy, had a premature delivery or had given birth three or more times in the past were at two times the risk of developing a blood clot than mothers who did not have these factors in play.
  • In mothers who went through a stillbirth, the risk of developing a blood clot was six times higher than other cases.
  • Also, the researchers revealed that blood clots occurred in about one or two pregnancies out of each 1,000 cases of pregnancy. Even though it is quite rare, it is still one of the most dangerous conditions that can lead to death in a pregnant woman [2].

Complications Of Having A Blood Clot During Pregnancy

While having a blood clot is in itself dangerous, it is especially riskier when you are pregnant, as it can have a very damaging and dangerous effect on both you and your unborn baby. Here are some of the complications that can arise if you have a blood clot any time during your months of pregnancy:

1. Plancental Problems:

The placenta is an organ that grows and develops inside your womb or the uterus. It helps to supply food and oxygen to your unborn baby through the umbilical cord. If there is a blood clot in placenta during pregnancy, it can stop the flow of the food and oxygen to the fetus, which is extremely crucial for its growth and development, as well as for its survival.

[ Read: Placenta During Pregnancy ]

2. Miscarriage:

A blood clot can also lead to a miscarriage, which means that the unborn baby dies while still in the womb during the months of pregnancy, especially before 20 weeks of pregnancy.

3. Placental Insufficiency:

It is a condition in which your placenta will not be able to work properly and, as a result, will not be able to provide the proper amount of food and oxygen to your unborn baby.

4. Heart Attack:

In some cases, a blood clot can block the flow of oxygen as well as food to the heart. If the heart does not receive its required amount of blood and oxygen, it will not be able to pump out blood the way it should. As a result, the heart muscle that is affected will die, and it can lead to heart attack. Having a heart attack can cause permanent damage to the heart and even lead to death.

5. Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR):

An intrauterine growth restriction is a condition in which the unborn baby is not able to grow properly while inside the womb during the months of pregnancy.

6. Preeclampsia:

Preeclampsia is a health condition that you may suffer from while you are pregnant, and it usually happens after the 20th week of the pregnancy. It is a condition in which you will suffer from very high blood pressure and will also have some problems in the way your kidneys and liver may be functioning. In many cases, there is also the chance of damage to these organs if you have preeclampsia. Some signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include a severe headache, problems with vision and blurry vision as well as traces of protein in the urine.

7. Stroke:

If there is a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel that is carrying blood to your brain, or if there is a blood vessel in the brain that bursts up because of a blood clot, it leads to a stroke. A stroke happens in a pregnant woman in about 8 out of 100,000 pregnancy cases. It is a very serious and dangerous situation that can lead to long lasting damage as well as turn fatal in severe cases.

8. Premature Delivery:

Blood clots can also lead to a premature birth, which means that the baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy.

[ Read: Premature Birth Complications ]

9. Pulmonary Embolism (PE):

An embolism refers to the condition in which a blood clot moves from the place where it was first formed in a different place in the body. Once the blood clot moves to the lungs, it is referred to as a pulmonary embolism or PE. A pulmonary embolism is a condition that can significantly lower the levels of oxygen in your blood and as a result also damage various organs in your body. It is a very serious situation that requires emergency attention and can also lead to death in severe cases. The signs and symptoms of pulmonary embolism include difficulty in breathing, feeling dizzy or fainting, pain in the chest, irregularities in the heartbeat or very fast heartbeat, feeling anxious and drops of blood while coughing.

Stillbirth is the condition in which the unborn baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before birth.

10. Thrombosis:

Thrombosis is a condition that happens when there is a blood clot in the blood vessels that block the flow of blood. In most cases, thrombosis happens in the deep veins that are located in the legs. It can, however, take place in other parts of the body as well. There are two types of thrombosis:

  • Cerebral Vein Thrombosis (CVT): Cerebral vein thrombosis is a condition in which the blood clot forms in one of the veins in the brain. As a result, there is always the risk of having a stroke. Some of the most common symptoms of cerebral vein thrombosis are problems with vision, headache, and even seizures.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Deep vein thrombosis is a condition in which the blood clot forms in a vein that are located deep inside the body. In most cases, it forms in a vein that is located in the thigh or lower leg. An ultrasound or any other similar imaging test can help to spot a deep vein thrombosis situation. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a deep vein thrombosis include swelling or redness on the skin around which the vein is located where DVT has occurred, pain on and around the vein and even a feeling of tenderness and warmth around the area where the vein is located.

[ Read: Smoking During Pregnancy ]

11. Venous Thromboembolism (VTE):

Venous thromboembolism is a condition in which the blood clot breaks away and moves through the blood to various other vital organs in your body. In most of the cases, the clot travels towards the lungs, brain or the heart. Venous thromboembolism also includes both DVT and PE. The VTEs that block the blood vessels that are located in your brain or the heart can lead to a stroke or even a heart attack, and be fatal [3].

How Are Blood Clots Treated When You Are Pregnant?

During your pregnancy, your doctor will help to treat the blood clots in the following way, depending on where they are located:

  • In most cases, your doctor will treat a blood clot while you are pregnant in the same way as it is treated when someone is not pregnant. However, one thing that they will make sure is to avoid the use of warfarin while you are pregnant.
  • Your doctor may initially treat you with standard unfractionated heparin or LMWH.
  • However, your doctor will also gradually put you on injections twice a day of anticoagulant that will continue till after you have delivered your baby.
  • The injection will most likely be injected into your abdomen, which may cause you a lot of concern while you are pregnant, as you may worry that it can affect your unborn baby. Do not be afraid, as the needle of the injection is usually very short. As a result, it will not go below the fatty layers of tissue that are present under your skin.
  • Also, while you suffer a blood clot while you are pregnant, your doctor will closely monitor you and make the necessary changes or arrangements to make sure everything is alright at the time of delivery. The same also applies in the case of a miscarriage.
  • If the LMWH is located inside your body at the time of the delivery or even a miscarriage, or even when the doctor is administering the epidural or the spinal anesthetic, it can lead to an increase in various bleeding complications.
  • To avoid the same, your doctor may put you on standard unfractionated heparin, which has shorter effects. Your doctor may prefer using this mode of treatment especially around the last weeks of your pregnancy as well as at the time of delivery.
  • About one or two weeks after you have delivered your baby, you will be at a considerably lower risk of major bleeding issues. At this point of time, your doctor will most likely convert your treatment option to warfarin and use it for the remaining part of your treatment, till you are completely cured [4,5].

[ Read: Low Platelet Count During Pregnancy ]

How Can You Prevent The Formation Of Blood Clots While You Are Pregnant?

When you are pregnant, you need to give a lot of attention and care to all the things that you do, as it will all be related to your health as well as to that of your unborn baby. A blood clot is a dangerous thing and especially more so while you are pregnant. Here are a few tips that will help in preventing blood clots during pregnancy:

1. Make Sure You Move About And Get Some Physical Activity:

  • One of the best and most effective ways to prevent a blood clot is to have an active lifestyle and make sure you get enough physical activity.
  • Before you take up any exercise or activity while you are pregnant, make sure you speak to your doctor about it and take their approval.
  • If you are overweight or obese, or have a tendency to put on weight, or are suffering from thyroid issues that could increase your weight, it is more important to exercise and stay fit.
  • In case, you have to be on a bed rest due to any medical complications while you are pregnant or any injury, your doctor may refer some blood thinners to prevent a blood clot.

[ Read: Physical Activities During Pregnancy ]

2. Stay Hydrated:

  • It is very important for you to remain properly hydrated at all times while you are pregnant as it will help you prevent the appearance of blood clots.
  • When you stay hydrated, the blood does not get too thick, and the chances of having a blood clot are greatly reduced.
  • Make sure you drink at least eight to ten glasses of water in a day and even more if you can. If you do not wish to drink water all the time, you can instead opt for other healthy fluids that will let you stay hydrated as well.
  • Have homemade infused water, soups and even fresh fruit or vegetable juices that will not only help you stay hydrated but will also help you prevent the chance of a blood clot.

[ Read: Chest Pain during pregnancy ]

3. Wear A Compression Stocking:

  • A compression stocking will help to improve the circulation of blood in your system. As a result, it will help to reduce the chance of a swelling in your legs.
  • If you wear a compression stocking while you are pregnant, it will also help to lower your risk of deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, especially when you are pregnant.

[ Read: Heparin During Pregnancy ]

4. Get Up Frequently:

  • Another very easy way to prevent the appearance of blood clots is to get up frequently while you are sitting.
  • If you are in a situation where you have to sit down for long hours at a stretch, such as while working in an office environment, make sure you get up in between. Stand up at regular intervals, at least once in every hour or so, and take a small walk around. Stretch and relax the muscles in your legs and give them a simple massage to ease blood circulation.
  • If you are traveling while you are pregnant, you will be at an increased risk of blood clot. In case you are traveling by road, you can stop at regular intervals and get down to ease your legs from their position and take a short walk around.
  • In case you are traveling by air, make sure that you get out of your seat and take a walk on the aisle slowly to ease your legs.

A blood clot is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention and care. Make sure you speak to your doctor to know if you are at risk and what you should do if you get a blood clot while you are pregnant.

Moms, did you get a blood clot while you were pregnant? How did you keep your weight in check and how did you ease the discomfort in your legs? Do share your tips here to help other women who are pregnant.

[ Read: Blood Clots During Pregnancy ]

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shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health and pharma, especially related to... more