The risk of developing blood clots (thrombophlebitis) is increased for about 6 to 8 weeks after delivery (see Thromboembolic Disorders During Pregnancy Thromboembolic Disorders During Pregnancy In thromboembolic disorders, blood clots (thrombi) form in blood vessels. An embolus is a blood clot that travels through the bloodstream and blocks an artery. In the United States, thromboembolic... read more ). Typically, blood clots occur in the deep veins of the legs or pelvis (a disorder called deep vein thrombosis Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Deep vein thrombosis is the formation of blood clots (thrombi) in the deep veins, usually in the legs. Blood clots may form in veins if the vein is injured, a disorder causes the blood to clot... read more ).
Sometimes one of these clots breaks loose and travels through the bloodstream into the lungs, where it lodges in a blood vessel in the lung, blocking blood flow. This blockage is called pulmonary embolism Pulmonary Embolism (PE) Pulmonary embolism is the blocking of an artery of the lung (pulmonary artery) by a collection of solid material brought through the bloodstream (embolus)—usually a blood clot (thrombus) or... read more .
Blood clots may also develop in the veins just under the skin in the legs. This disorder is called superficial venous thrombosis Superficial Venous Thrombosis Superficial venous thrombosis is inflammation and clotting in a superficial vein, usually in the arms or legs. The skin over the vein becomes red, swollen, and painful. Doctors examine the area... read more (superficial thrombophlebitis).
Symptoms of Postpartum Blood Clots
A fever that develops after delivery may be caused by a blood clot.
When a blood clot forms in a leg vein, the affected part of the leg, often the calf, may be painful, tender to the touch, warm, and swollen. A blood clot in the pelvis may not cause symptoms.
The first sign of pulmonary embolism may be shortness of breath.
Diagnosis of Postpartum Blood Clots
For deep vein thrombosis, ultrasonography
For pulmonary embolism, computed tomography
Doctors can usually diagnose superficial blood clots based on a physical examination.
Diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis is usually based on results of ultrasonography. Occasionally, a blood test to measure D-dimer (a substance released from blood clots) is helpful.
If pulmonary embolism is suspected, computed tomography (CT) of the chest is done after a radiopaque contrast agent is injected into a vein. The contrast agent makes the blockage easier to see.
Treatment of Postpartum Blood Clots
For superficial blood clots, warm compresses, compression bandages, and elevation of the limb
For deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism, drugs
Treatment of a superficial blood clot in the leg consists of warm compresses (to reduce discomfort), compression bandages applied by a doctor or nurse, and, when resting, elevation of the affected leg (for example, by raising the foot of the bed 6 inches). Rarely, when the superficial blood clots are extensive, women are given drugs that make blood less likely to clot (anticoagulants Treatment Pulmonary embolism is the blocking of an artery of the lung (pulmonary artery) by a collection of solid material brought through the bloodstream (embolus)—usually a blood clot (thrombus) or... read more , which are sometimes called blood thinners).
Women with deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism need to take anticoagulants, which make blood less likely to clot. Sometimes doctors place a filter in the inferior vena cava Inferior Vena Cava Filters: One Way to Prevent Pulmonary Embolism Pulmonary embolism is the blocking of an artery of the lung (pulmonary artery) by a collection of solid material brought through the bloodstream (embolus)—usually a blood clot (thrombus) or... read more (the vein that carries blood from the lower part of the body to the heart). The filter prevents a blood clot from the leg moving to the lungs. Rarely, surgery to remove the clot is necessary.