A journey of hope and healing after a decade of infertility and two maternal near-misses.

Our Story Part 11: Know the Signs

I'm hitting pause on our story for a moment to talk about the risks and symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE) because I had no idea about the specific risks to women during pregnancy.  I nearly lost my life because I didn't recognize the warning signs.  And now as a Maternal Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism Survivor, I am spreading awareness about these silent killers.  Know the risks.  Know the signs.  #StopTheClot  The information I share here may very well save a life someday.

Blood Clots by the Numbers

Did you know?  Up to 600,000 people in the United States develop blood clots every year.  About 100,000 people in the U.S. die each year from blood clots, which means that about 1 of 3 may die.

Do you know the most common risk factors for blood clots?

Hospitalization for illness or surgery
Major surgery, particularly of the pelvis, abdomen, hip, knee
Severe trauma, such as a car accident
Injury to a vein that may have been caused by a broken bone or severe muscle injury
Hip or knee replacement surgery
Cancer and cancer treatments
**The use of hormone replacement therapy, which contains estrogen
**Use of birth control methods that contain estrogen, such as the pill, patch or ring
**Pregnancy, which includes the six weeks after the baby is born
A family history of blood clots
Confinement to bed
Sitting too long, especially with legs crossed

In addition to those factors, use of drugs, such as Lysteda to treat heavy menstrual periods in women, is also a risk.  Talk to you doctor if you have any of the risk factors and familiarize yourself with the signs of DVT and PE.  The odds are likely in your favor but learn from my scary experience.  Better to know and be prepared.

Do you know the signs and symptoms of a DVT or PE?

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the deep veins of your body, usually in your legs, but sometimes in your arm.   The signs and symptoms of a DVT include:

Swelling, usually in one leg (or arm)
Leg pain or tenderness often described as a cramp or Charley horse 
Reddish or bluish skin discoloration 
Leg (or arm) warm to touch

These symptoms of a blood clot may feel similar to a pulled muscle or a “Charlie horse,” but may differ in that the leg (or arm) may be swollen, slightly discolored, and warm.  
Clots can break off from a DVT and travel to the lung, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal.  The signs and symptoms of a PE include:

Sudden shortness of breath
Chest pain-sharp, stabbing; may get worse with deep breath
Rapid heart rate
Unexplained cough, sometimes with bloody mucus

The scary part of my ordeal is that my only symptoms were the infrequent Charley Horse leg spasms and shortness of breath.  And even then, the pregnancy books I was reading told me I should expect both of these symptoms toward the end of my pregnancy.  Please, PLEASE... err on the side of caution ALWAYS!  Make that doctor appointment as soon as possible.  Go to the Emergency Room.  Do what you have to do to rule out something more sinister.  Be the crazy paranoid pregnant lady walking out of the hospital with a false alarm!  I promise you that trying to avoid looking crazy isn't worth your life.  It's not worth your unborn baby's life either.  

Since becoming a PE survivor, I have read so many stories of blood clots not caught in time.  It's sobering because even people that sought medical help did not always survive.  In a few of the cases, the medical professionals missed the signs and symptoms as well.  While doctors are very knowledgeable and talented individuals, the fact remains that they are human too and can make mistakes.  We are our own best advocates.  If something doesn't feel right, don't hesitate to ask for a D-Dimer blood test to rule out a blood clot or seek a second or even third opinion!  It may very well save your life.  #StopTheClot

Information for this post has been pulled directly from the National Blood Clot Alliance.

Stay Tuned for Part 12: It Is Well
Missed previous posts?  Click here to catch up!

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