Pregnancy is an exciting time for mothers-to-be. With the excitement comes some questions and concerns. Will the baby be healthy? How will being pregnant change your body? Will labor and delivery be difficult? But there are other lesser known issues that expecting mothers should be aware of, including the very real and serious issue of healthy blood circulation and the risk of blood clots during pregnancy.
This article will discuss DVT in pregnancy.
- Can Pregnancy Cause Blood Clots?
- How to Prevent Blood Clots During Pregnancy
- Symptoms of a Blood Clot in the Legs During Pregnancy/DVT
- Symptoms of a Blood Clot in the Lungs During Pregnancy/PE
- Treatment for Blood Clots During Pregnancy
- Safe Leg Exercises During Pregnancy
- Safe Exercises During Pregnancy: First Trimester
- Safe Exercises During Pregnancy: Second Trimester
- Safe Exercises During Pregnancy: Third Trimester
Can Pregnancy Cause Blood Clots?
Blood clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis or DVT, result from blood thickens forming a clot in a blood vessel and can be life threatening. Otherwise healthy adult women are at a greater risk for blood clots during pregnancy. As the body experiences hormonal changes during pregnancy, the blood clots more easily to lessen the risk of blood loss. Later in pregnancy, the circulation in your legs and pelvis is impeded, due to the pressure the baby is putting on the blood vessels, which is another factor that increases your risk for blood clots.
How to Prevent Blood Clots During Pregnancy
While there is no way to totally eliminate the risks of blood clots, even if you are not pregnant, there are things you can do to prevent blood clots. First, keep active. Women who are sedentary are at an increased risk of blood clots. One of the best ways to lower your risk during pregnancy is to exercise regularly. In addition, avoid long periods of sitting. See our recent article about Flying While Pregnant and How t to Avoid Blood Clots for more information.
Maintaining a healthy weight is another way to lower your risk for blood clots. Pregnant women who are overweight are at a higher risk, so make healthy food choices and keep yourself in shape.
Drink plenty of water. When you’re dehydrated, your blood is thicker. If you keep yourself hydrated (and avoid beverages that increase dehydration such as sodas and coffee), your blood will be thinner, lowering your risk of blood clots.
Lastly, all expectant mothers should wear compression stockings. They are designed to improve the circulation in your legs and reduce the pooling of blood in your legs and swelling. Both of these benefits can help prevent blood clots.
Symptoms of a Blood Clot in Legs During Pregnancy
Most blood clots DVT’s have no symptoms. That’s why it is important to take preventative measures. However, if you have any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away:
- Pain or tenderness in one or both legs
- Leg Swelling
- Redness or visible veins in the legs
- Unusually warm skin on either leg
Symptoms of a Blood Clot in the Lung During Pregnancy
A blood clot in the lung called a pulmonary embolism (PE), is a serious issue, most frequently caused when a blood clot in the leg breaks free and travels to the lungs. The symptoms of a PE are similar to other conditions such as heart attacks, severe asthma, and even panic attacks. These symptoms include:
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Clammy or bluish skin
- Irregular heartbeat
- Sudden chest pain that may extend to the jaw, shoulders, or arms
Seek emergency treatment if you experience these symptoms. A pulmonary embolism is very serious and can be fatal if it’s not treated immediately.
Treatment for Blood Clots During Pregnancy
Fortunately, blood clots are treatable. Your doctor will prescribe a blood thinner to prevent further clots from forming allowing the body to begin to dissolve the clot. 2The blood thinner is usually administered as a daily injection. If you are concerned about giving yourself a shot don’t worry, the needle is very short only penetrating the fatty tissue; keeping you and your baby safe.
If you are diagnosed with a blood clot, your doctor will usually continue your blood thinner through the pregnancy and for 2-3 month after delivery. Women who have had blood clots during previous pregnancies will often be placed on blood thinners if they become pregnant again to prevent repeated clotting.
Safe Leg Exercises During Pregnancy
One way to prevent blood clots, varicose veins, spider veins and venous issues is to do leg workouts. Exercise is good pregnant or not, but low impact exercise is especially good during pregnancy. Try these leg exercises during pregnancy to reduce your risk of venous disease.
Simply lie on the floor on your right side, propping your head up on your elbow. Your left leg should be resting on your right leg in this posture. To do the leg lift, lift your left leg upward, as though doing a straddle in the air. Repeat on the other side.
Squats are one of the best exercises to do during pregnancy because it uses muscles in your legs, thighs, butt, and core. To do a squat, stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart and extend your arms out horizontally in front of you with your palms down. Bend at the knees, taking care not to roll your spine. Lower yourself to a point where you’re comfortable without pushing too far. Hold that position for a moment and then push yourself back to a standing position. If you’re worried about balance, you can hold onto a chair to steady yourself.
Lunges are another good exercise to tone your legs and improve circulation preventing blood clots. To do a lunge, stand with your back straight and your feet together. Take a large step forward with your left foot, keeping your right foot extended behind you. Then, bend your right knee down toward the floor, raising onto the toes of your right foot, while keeping your left knee over your left foot. Your left foot should remain firmly planted on the floor for this. Before your right knee touches the floor, push back upwards. Repeat on the other side.
Safe Exercises During Pregnancy: First Trimester
During the first trimester of pregnancy, your body is going though a lot of changes, and while you don’t appear to be pregnant yet, you still have to take care when exercising. Avoid high impact exercises, such as running (unless your OBGYN clears you for such activity) or contact sports. If you’re an avid runner, a good alternative to stay in shape and promote good circulation, is brisk walking or swimming. Both of these are completely safe during pregnancy and are great cardiovascular exercises. Lifting light weights is another good way keep active and prevent blood clots. Ask your OBGYN what exercises are safe for you.
Safe Exercises During Pregnancy: Second Trimester
During the second trimester of pregnancy, the changes in your body are more noticeable. They impact your energy level and your recovery from exercise. A lot of the first trimester exercises are still perfectly safe to do. Swimming is a good exercise because of the buoyancy you get in the water that eases pressure on your joints.
Another great exercise during the second trimester is prenatal yoga. It is useful on several levels. First, it focuses on breathing, increasing oxygen levels and helps you prepare for childbirth. Second, it can be relaxing. Lastly, it stretches your muscles, improving blood flow and flexibility.
Safe Exercises During Pregnancy: Third Trimester
In the third trimester, you will likely feel more fatigued and less inclined to exercise. It is important to stay active, for your well-being, to prepare you for labor and delivery, and to prevent blood clots. You can continue to do the exercises mentioned above, as long as your gynecologist approves. However, it is important at this stage not to push yourself too hard. Give yourself plenty of rest between sets, and if you begin to feel lightheaded, take a break and discuss with your doctor. If you are lifting weights, it may also be beneficial to reduce the amount of weight you lift. If you find your workouts to be too easy with the reduced weight, do more reps per set.
As always, discuss any exercise routine with your OBGYN to ensure you aren’t overworking. Remember, you’re growing a baby, too! That takes a lot of energy and resources from your body. Rest is just as important as exercise.
What if I don’t have a lot of time to exercise?
If you don’t have time for exercise, there are still ways to stay active. If you work in an office setting and don’t spend a lot of time away from your desk, stand up and do some simple exercises. Walk in place a little bit or do some leg raises. What’s important is to stimulate blood flow and work the calf muscles to prevent slow blood flow.
A great idea is to take short breaks and do simple stretches like double calf leg raises. Use your desk for balance (if needed) and stand with your legs shoulder width apart. Then slowly push yourself up onto your tip-toes, hold it for a second, and then lower slowly back to your starting position. If your calves cramp up during this exercise, it’s likely because you’re dehydrated. Take this warning from your body to heart, and drink more water!
If you have a family history of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), you should tell your doctor. Otherwise, as long as you drink plenty of water, wear your compression garments, stay active and follow other instructions (see below), you will greatly reduce your risk of blood clots during pregnancy.
Do you have questions about how to prevent blood clots during pregnancy? Are you concerned about varicose veins you have developed during pregnancy? Contact Vein Specialists of the South in Macon and Warner Robbins for an appointment with Dr. Kenneth Harper and our team of vein specialists in Middle Georgia.