There is no escaping the simple fact that having a baby puts a lot of strain on a woman’s body. Upon delivery, moms and dads are wrapped up in overnight feedings, diapers and whole range of other topics. Too often, mom’s health is overlooked. This is a serious issue because recent studies have found that women are still at risk for developing blood clots at least three months after their pregnancy. These results double the amount of “risk time” that doctors previously thought was the case.
Dr. Hooman Kamel led the team conducting the study. He is a neurology specialist based out of New York’s Weill Cornell Medical College. Based on the findings, overall strokes are rare after pregnancy. However, when they do occur there is a 10% chance of death. A simple blood clot in the leg can cause pain and might work itself out with proper medication. It’s when that clot breaks off and travels to the lung or heart where complications arise.
The reason that pregnant women are at a greater risk is that during labor, the body generates blood components that can help curb excessive bleeding. As a result, the blood in the legs struggles to circulate through the body.
“Sometimes there’s the notion that once they deliver they don’t have to worry about these things,” but risk persists for some time after the birth,” said Dr. Andrew Stemer, a Georgetown University neurologist told AP News.
For women who have been deemed high-risk for blood clots, doctors prescribe low-dose blood thinners for at least six weeks after delivery. Now it appears those medications should go on longer.
The study involved upwards of 1.7 million California women who were all welcoming their first child into the world. In the subsequent months after their pregnancies, over half of the women had developed clots. In that group, 248 had strokes, 47 had heart attacks and 720 had clots in the legs or lungs. The greatest level of risk is within those first six weeks of postpartum. Beyond the 12 weeks, those risks dropped to the same levels as women who hadn’t gone through childbirth.
What are the warning signs of a possible blood clot complication?
- Chest pain or pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling or pain in one leg
- Sudden severe headache
- Sudden loss of speech, vision, balance or strength on one side of the body
Additional risk factors can include a history of high blood pressure and smoking.
Taking this issue head on, the Heart Association issued its first guidelines for preventing strokes in women. These guidelines specifically focus on women and pregnancy. For women who have a history of high blood pressure, they should consider going on a low-dose aspirin regimen. Additionally, they should keep up with their calcium supplements. In this case, pregnant women with very high blood pressure readings of 160 over 110 and above should be on these regimens. Even women with moderate high blood pressure in the 150 to 159 over 100 to 109 range should also ask their doctor about these guidelines.