A woman scheduled for a C-section has enough on her mind already, doesn’t she? A new baby, a new life, a new list of things to do. Does she also have to worry about an increased risk of blood clot development following a C-section?
In some scenarios, a woman doesn’t even know she’ll need a C-section until the birth is imminent. In such cases, the flurry of activity doesn’t allow for too many questions. For those whose births are scheduled, preparation is the key to understanding the process and its associated risks.
C-section and blood clot risk
C-sections are often recommended when a baby is in distress, in an abnormal position, or the labor isn’t progressing as needed. Even though a C-section may be recommended and often vital for the optimal wellness of mother and baby, there are risks to the procedure.
One of those risks is heavy bleeding during or following delivery, known as postpartum hemorrhage. For some women, C-sections increase the risk of blood clot development inside deep veins, especially those found in the pelvic organs or the legs, otherwise known as a deep vein thrombosis or DVT.
A DVT poses a risk of breaking off and traveling to the lungs, blocking flow of oxygenated blood back to the heart. At that point, the blood clot is known as a pulmonary embolism. The damage it causes can be severe and potentially life-threatening.
What’s the risk of developing a blood clot following a C-section?
Blood clotting factors in the body are a natural process to stop bleeding from blood vessels and initiate healing processes. Among the most common causes of postpartum hemorrhage is an inability of the uterus to contract. These contractions naturally aid in stopping bleeding following the birth process. Retention of placental tissue and/or infection can also contribute to the potential for blood clots.
While it’s not always possible to circumvent all risks involved in any surgical procedure, C-sections are relatively safe. Even so, if your physician determines that a scheduled C-section is the safest delivery method for you or your baby, be willing to ask questions, discuss risks, and what you can do to prevent blood clots prior to the procedure.
Blood clotting is also a normal process following any type of invasive surgery where blood vessels may have been severed or otherwise injured or interfered with. Postsurgical or post C-section clotting is typically at its highest risk within six weeks postpartum, although clots can also occur during the following six weeks. In most cases, risks for developing a blood clot postpartum typically decreases following 12 weeks post-delivery.
It should be noted that it is relatively normal for women to experience bleeding as well as to pass some blood clots post-partum as the uterus contracts and returns to its normal size. However, watch for signs of potential blood clotting dangers that include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Pain, warmth, or swelling and redness in one leg (potential signs of DVT)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Clammy or chilled skin
If you’re pregnant and your doctor has recommended a C-section delivery, discuss concerns prior to the procedure and follow instructions for decreasing your risk of potential dangerous blood clots post-procedure.