Postpartum Pulmonary Embolism
Risk for postpartum pulmonary embolism (also known as venous thromboembolism) is 6 times higher in pregnant woman. According to American college of obstetricians and gynecologists the risk is highest in woman during first few weeks post delivery. This is because of pregnancy induced hypercoagulability.
Hypercoagulability is a physiological mechanism which prevents postpartum bleeding. But when combined with underlying factors like age above 35 years, stroke, prolonged bed rest, estrogen based medications, obesity, post surgery, smoking, having a cesarean delivery, certain genetic predisposing conditions; the risk of embolism may become substantial. In few rare cases embolization of fat, amniotic fluid and air can also contribute to development of postpartum embolism. Risk of postpartum embolism reduces steadily through 12-13 weeks after delivery. Studies also suggest that the risk of having postpartum pulmonary embolism is more in woman with pregnancy complications.
Pulmonary embolism can be explained as a blockage of any blood vessel in the lungs by a substance that has travelled from elsewhere in the body via blood stream.
Signs and Symptoms of Postpartum Pulmonary Embolism
Postpartum pulmonary embolism may be sudden, it include chest pain which worsen by breathing, rapid breathing, low blood oxygen levels, cough, coughing up blood and shortness of breath. Few women may also present mild fever. Severe cases may also present blue discoloration of fingers and lips and collapse.
In case when blood clot is in leg, woman may also show symptoms like tenderness in thighs and calf muscles, pain in leg, redness in affected area and swelling. These are signs of deep vein thrombosis and they should not be neglected, you should immediately seek medical help. Treatment includes anticoagulant therapy along with supportive treatment of oxygen and analgesics.
How to Prevent Postpartum Pulmonary Embolism
Postpartum pulmonary embolism may be preventable, certain preventive medications like low molecular weight heparin, and anti-thrombosis stockings can be used. Certain steps can help you reduce the risk of having blood clots.
Stay active, practice any form of physical exercise of your choice. In the case you are advised for bed rest because of pregnancy related complications, your doctor may prescribe certain blood thinners as precautionary measure.
Maintain a Healthy Weight During Pregnancy
Avoid any extra calories, take a well balanced diet. Eat moderately; include iron, protein and vitamins in your diet. Instead of consuming large meals in one go, take small and frequent meals. Cravings are natural, but satisfy them with nutritional substitutes.
Get up During Travel
If you are travelling, always take breaks. Get up and move around every 1-2 hours. Repeat ankle roll exercise while you sit for long hours.
Compression stockings help in improving blood circulation; they substantially lower the risk of blood clots.
Drink Lots of Water
Always stay hydrated during pregnancy; it not only reduces the risk of having bladder infections, it also reduces swelling in feet and ankles. Water helps in preventing constipation and hemorrhoids also.
For your sake and the safety of baby, do not hesitate to seek medical help because severe cases can lead to low blood pressure and sudden death.