Blood clots in the leg are occasionally diagnosed during pregnancy. This condition, called thrombophlebitis, is more likely to occur during pregnancy because of changes in blood circulation. Blood flow in the legs slows down (a condition called stasis) because of pressure from the uterus on blood vessels and because of changes in the blood and its clotting mechanisms. Blood clots occur in less than 1 % of all pregnancies.
The condition is serious because the blood clot may break loose and travel to another part of the body, such as the lungs (called a pulmonary embolism). Fortunately, that happens only rarely.
If you have had any kind of blood clot in the past, don't ignore it. Tell your doctor. This is important information! Blood clots may also occasionally appear in veins near the surface of the leg. This condition is not serious. This type of thrombosis does not require hospitalization and is treated with mild pain relievers, elevation of the leg, heat and support of the leg with an Ace™ bandage or maternity support stockings.
Signs and symptoms of deep-vein thrombosis can vary widely and include:
|paleness of the leg|
|leg is cool to the touch|
|a portion of the leg may be tender, hot and swollen|
|skin of the leg may have red streaks over the veins|
|squeezing the calf or walking may be very painful|
|rapid, abrupt onset of the above symptoms|
To diagnose deep-vein thrombosis in a pregnant woman, an ultrasound of the legs is done. In a nonpregnant woman, either X-ray or ultrasound is used.
Treatment of this condition during pregnancy usually consists of hospitalization and administration of heparin to thin the blood and to allow the clot to dissolve. While heparin is being given, the woman is required to stay in bed with heat applied to her elevated leg.
If you had a blood clot in a previous pregnancy, tell your doctor. You will probably need heparin during this pregnancy. lt should be started right away. Heparin is administered by injections that you give yourself two or three times a day, by a long-dwelling I. V. (intravenous drip) or by a heparin pump.
Another blood thinner, called warfarin (Coumadin®), is available in pill form, but it is not usually given during pregnancy because it is not safe for the baby. Heparin is safe for use during pregnancy. After you deliver, you may have to take warfarin for a few weeks, depending on the severity of the blood clot.