The Dangerous Reason You May Be Out of Breath
If a pregnant woman went to her doctor and said, “Guess what, Doc? I'm really short of breath these days,” he or she may not think anything of it.
After all, pregnant women are notorious for being out of breath due to the fact that there is a human being wedged near the lungs and all, right?
Well, the rather surprising (and scary) truth is pregnancy may be masking the very serious reason behind being short of breath — and it could be deadly.
What many pregnant women may not expect is that, while some shortness of breath is completely normal in the later stages of pregnancy, severe shortness of breath could be a sign of a blood clot — a serious medical complication of pregnancy that could be deadly.
Pregnancy doesn't cause blood clots, but the increased blood flow in a woman, combined with less activity and complications such as high-risk pregnancies that warrant bed rest, increases her risk of developing a blood clot by almost five times.
Blood clots form in veins, especially in areas where blood normally pools, like the legs, and, if dislodged, can travel directly to the lungs, an almost-always fatal occurrence. And the most frightening aspect of a blood clot during pregnancy, besides the fact that pregnancy increases a woman's risk, is that the symptoms are also very easily masked by the normal aspects of being pregnant or just be missed all together.
According to 1 in 1000, an advocacy group that helps women realize their risks of developing a blood clot during pregnancy, one or more of the following conditions also increases the risk of a blood clot during pregnancy:
- Over age 35
- Bed rest
- High blood pressure or preeclampsia
- Varicose veins
I know how scary this silent-but-deadly complication during pregnancy can be. Not only was I prepped with the tragic story of a perfectly otherwise healthy mother who passed moments after birth at the hospital I worked at during my training as a labor and delivery nurse, but I also developed signs of a blood clot in my foot shortly before becoming pregnant with my third child while flying for a business trip. (Long airplane rides are especially risky for developing clots due to the position of sitting and the pressure in the air.)
My foot swelled up, was hot and red to the touch, and was painful and tender. Unfortunately, I didn't connect the dots for what all classic symptoms of a blood clot were and didn't seek treatment — a mistake that could have cost me my life. When I eventually sought medical advice, I had to undergo testing and wear compression stockings for the rest of my pregnancy to prevent another potential clot. It was a scary experience and one that opened my eyes to the need for every pregnant woman to be on the lookout for the symptoms of a blood clot and to immediately seek help if one is suspected.
Pregnant ladies: Know the signs and regularly inspect your feet and legs for increased swelling, redness, or tender areas and contact your health care provider if you develop any symptoms of a blood clot.
Did you experience a blood clot during pregnancy?