Pregnancy and Childbirth

Pregnancy is a major risk factor for the development of dangerous blood clots. Women who are pregnant or who have just given birth are at increased risk for blood clots. Pregnancy does not directly cause blood clots, but it does pose a four-fold increased risk for the development of a blood clot. That risk actually increases to about 20-fold in the weeks immediately following childbirth, and is at its highest — a risk of 100-fold — in the first week after the baby is born.

This tendency for a woman’s body to form clots during pregnancy is the result of a natural biological response intended to protect women against the potentially major bleeding challenges of miscarriage and childbirth.

What’s Your Risk?

Women should look into whether or not there is a history of blood clots in their family, and also recognize some of the other major risk factors for blood clots, including: hospitalization, surgery, trauma, obesity, smoking, and immobility.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk?

Women should discuss their potential risk factors with their doctors, and make sure that they take steps to address any risks they might identify.

In general, there are three groups of women who need to be take anticoagulation or blood thinning medication during pregnancy:

Women who have had a blood clot in the past and are already on blood thinning medication

Women who have had a blood clot in the past, but are not currently on blood thinning medication

Women who develop a blood clot during pregnancy

After delivery, women who have not had a clot, but do have major risk factors, may need to take anticoagulation for a short period of time.

Prevent Blood Clots

Know the Signs and Symptoms, Be Your Own Advocate

Understand the symptoms of blood clots and pay attention to your body for signs of a problem.

Symptoms of blood clots in the deep veins of the legs or arms, where they commonly form, include pain and swelling, with skin that might be discolored and/or warm to the touch.

The symptoms of blood clots in the lungs include chest pain, particularly with a deep breath, coughing up blood, and an accelerated heart rate.

Work with your doctor to make sure you reduce your blood clot risk during pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent blood clots during your pregnancy and after giving birth.

Talk to your family about your health history and to your doctor about possible genetic testing.

Do you have a history of blood clots or an inherited or acquired blood clotting disorder?

There’s more information you may need: 
Anticoagulation Therapy While Pregnant

While oral anticoagulants, or blood thinners, such as warfarin, dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban are most commonly prescribed, they are not considered safe for unborn babies. Women who take blood thinners should contact their doctor immediately upon finding out they are pregnant. Your doctor may recommend that you switch from blood thinning pills to blood thinning medications that are injected under the skin, such as standard or unfractionated heparin and also low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH), because they do not cross the placenta or enter the bloodstream of the unborn baby and are safe to use during pregnancy. LMWH is preferred over heparin because it presents fewer side effects. Women can rest assured that injections are not dangerous to the fetus, even though they are given in the abdomen, because the needles are very small and do not reach beyond the fatty layers of stomach tissue just beneath the skin. Heparin and LMWH have been used in pregnancy by thousands of women with no birth defects or bleeding problems in their unborn babies.

Women who are on blood thinners require special consideration when it comes to labor and delivery, but a successful delivery is entirely possible. Women may or may not be converted to standard heparin, which is shorter-acting than LMWH, a few weeks ahead of delivery. LMWH or heparin can be held a few hours prior to delivery to further reduce the risk of bleeding and allow for the use of an epidural. Pneumatic compression devices, or simple sleeves with air pumps that inflate and deflate the sleeves, also may be placed on your legs and/or arms to help improve blood flow during labor and delivery.

Giving Birth While Taking Blood Thinners
Risk Management After Giving Birth

Women are at their highest risk of a blood clot in the six weeks following the baby’s birth.

After delivery, women with clotting disorders need to resume anticoagulation or blood thinner therapy. Women need to continue taking anticoagulants for at least six weeks post-delivery, either injections or an oral anticoagulant, as the risk for bleeding is reduced, to protect themselves from blood clots.  The duration of anticoagulation after six weeks post-delivery will depend on a woman’s individual clotting risks.

Women can breastfeed while on LMWH injections or warfarin, but the safety of newer oral anticoagulants as it pertains to breastfeeding has not yet been determined.

For More Information About Blood Clots, Visit:

The National Blood Clot Alliance

The information and materials on this site are provided for general information purposes only. You should not rely on the information provided as a substitute for actual professional medical advice, care, or treatment. This site is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or services to you or any individual. If you believe you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

Get all the latest news from the National Blood Clot Alliance delivered to your inbox each month by subscribing to our e-newsletter. Stay up to date with special features that will keep you informed about our organization’s activities, including patient stories, news about emerging science and medical advances, as well as information shared from a broad spectrum of volunteers, athletes, advocacy partners, and supporters who contribute to the efforts of NBCA.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.