Women have a higher blood clot risk than men. Especially for one dangerous clotting condition: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). This develops when you form a blood clot in the deep veins of your legs. As it circulates, there’s a risk that the blood clot will break free. Then, it could lodge in your lungs (pulmonary embolism), causing a potentially fatal complication.
All women have an elevated risk. And should look out for warning signs such as tingling or numbness in your hands. And your risk for DVT may be increased if you take a hormonal birth control pill or IUD. Because some of the hormones in your birth control makes your blood more likely to clot, you may prefer a on-hormonal option if you have other risk factors. These include condoms or a copper IUD.
Birth control that contains estrogen is more likely to make your blood clot. For that reason, newer forms of birth control combine forms of progestin and estradiol, leaving out estrogen to improve the safety profile. If you prefer a hormonal birth control, but are worried about clotting, you may want to discuss options such as Yasmine or Mircette with your healthcare provider.
Pregnancy and Clotting
You may think that stopping birth control to conceive eliminates your clot risk. But pregnant women are in even greater danger if they develop blood clots. That’s because, when pregnant women get clots in the deep veins of their legs, groin or arms, the condition is called Venous Thromboembolism (VTE), not DVT.
Now, the condition’s name is different. But the danger to your lungs is the same. And that’s why VTE during pregnancy and post-partum is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths. (Even worse? The CDC says that 33% of people who develop VTE will experience another clot within 10 years. So prevention is very important.)
What We Know About Blood Clot Risk and VTE
Until recently, only a few VTE risk factors had been identified. During pregnancy these included:
- A previous episode of VTE
- A relative with a previous VTE episode
- Advanced maternal age
- High BMIs
- In-vitro fertilization
For post-partum VTEs, risk factors include:
- Emergency c-sections
- Still births
- Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
- Varicose veins
- Post-partum infection
New VTE Risk Factors Identified
Now, thanks to a study in Japan, two new VTE risk factors have been identified: Endometriosis and recurring miscarriages. To reach these findings, the study authors reviwed data from 103,070 pregnant Japanese women, collected between January 2011 and March 2014. Participants completed questionnaires in their first, second and/or third trimester, and their medical records were then transcribed immediately after delivery and one month post-partum.
First, researchers found that the frequency of VTE in the Japanese population was 7.5 per 10,000 pregnancies during both the pregnancy and post-partum period.
After identifying previous known risk factors, and adjusting for their presence, researchers were able to discover two new predictors for VTE: the presence of endometriosis and recurrent pregnancy loss. Women with endometriosis were 2.7 times more likely to develop VTE; women with multiple miscarriages had a risk factor that was 6.13 times higher.
In the wake of this information, we now know that more research will be necessary to keep people safe. And it should be coming soon. Just recently, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institue announced it will launch clinical trials in 2023 to determine whether certain body scans can detect blood clots right as they form. But, until then, it’s important to understand your risk. And address it with your doctor.
Pregnancy with VTE Risk Factors
Knowing your risk for VTE is important, since pregnant women with one or more predictors may need to take precautionary measures. In fact, VTE is such a dangerous complication, at-risk pregnant women may need to take anti-coagulants (with the supervision of and recommendation from their physicians.) To learn more about managing VTE and other venous conditions, schedule a consultation with our Houston vein specialists.