I read more about Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) only when a family member developed it 25 days after her delivery.  My father had advised me to walk around every other hour while I flew to California in order to avoid cramps and DVT. And, I had not heard of DVT as a post pregnancy complication before.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

DVT is often seen in people (especially travelers) who have to sit motionless for a long period of time. DVT a blood clot in a vein deep within the muscles, mostly in the calf or thigh. Other than travelers, people who remain bedridden for a long time due to an illness or surgery may develop DVT.  The symptoms of DVT appear in the form of swelling and pain in the leg which reddens and becomes tender. Travelers may mistake this for the minor swelling that usually appears in both the ankles due to long hours of crampy sitting. American Heart Association (AHA) warns the general public of DVT that affects every one out of a thousand people and urges them to take necessary precautions.

Most often DVT is seen in very tall or obese people and immobile and inactive people. Its risk factors include having a blood clot in vein before, genetics, cancer or a history of cancer treatment, heart problems, a surgery or an injury to the leg, inherited thrombophilia and certain blood diseases. Pregnant women, women who recently delivered, take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and those who take contraceptive pill with estrogen may also develop DVT. Aged people and smokers are also easily prone to this.

Why we have to worry so much about DVT is because of the complications it can cause. Pulmonary embolism is a very serious complication of DVT in which a piece of blood clot may break off and block pulmonary artery in the lungs. Post-thrombotic syndrome (untreated DVT causes increased blood flow and pressure can affect the tissues) and Limb ischemia (an obstruction in the arteries causing ulcers in the affected area) are the other too health risks associated with this medical condition.

DVT and Pregnancy

The chances of developing Deep vein thrombosis is five times higher pregnant women than other females of their own age group. During pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes a lot of changes. The hormonal changes during those times also increases the chances of blood clots in her body. That is the main reason for their increased susceptibility to DVT during pregnancy. Slow blood flow in the body due to the growing uterus also exerts pressure on the veins and arteries leading to Deep Vein Thrombosis. Having high blood pressure can also be a contributing factor. Since it can lead to severe health risks to the expectant mother and the fetus, women should be made aware of the symptoms of DVT.

DVT is also seen in many women immediately after their delivery. This is probably due to any injury in the blood vessels especially post a cesarean. Hence a pain or a swelling in one leg after delivery should be promptly brought in to medical attention.

Prevent DVT

  • Manage your weight!
  • Have a healthy and active life.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly. Control the blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Take additional precautions if you have a family history.
  • Quit smoking.
  • And get your doctor’s advice during pregnancy and after childbirth.
  • During travel, make it a must to walk up and down every now and then. Do not wear tight clothes, socks or footwear. Change your leg positions, press your toes and avoid crossing your legs. Compression socks may help. Drink a lot of water!
  • Ginkgo and Garlic are said to be two herbs which can help thinning the blood and aid blood circulation.

-Aparna K V