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By Theresa Boland

I was 30 years old and 6 months pregnant with my first child when I developed an acute deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  I had no prior knowledge of clotting disorders and had been on birth control for 10 years before I conceived.   It was a Thursday night when I first felt a tingling and slight soreness in my left leg.  By the next morning, my leg was slightly swollen and reddish in appearance.  A co-worker suggested I call my obstetrician, who had me come to his office that day and sent me to the ER for an ultrasound when he saw my leg, although he said it was probably nothing.  They did an ultrasound in the ER which showed no clot and sent me home.

The next day, my leg was more swollen and redder.  I started limping and the pain was worsening.  A friend of mine who is a resident at a different hospital stopped by that night, and she felt I had classic symptoms of a DVT and called my hospital to give her diagnosis and sent me back to the hospital for another ultrasound.  The ultrasound was done as well as some blood work, and once again the doctors in the ER claimed that no DVT was evident, although I was diagnosed with superficial thrombophlebitis, for which I received no treatment.

Two days later, I could barely walk because I had such severe leg pain, and my leg became grotesquely swollen and purplish in color.  I called my obstetrician once again, who was on vacation, so I was advised to contact my primary care physician (PCP), who told me to go again to the ER.  I asked to be seen by a vascular physician, but I was told they could not see me without a referral, and they were unmoved by my tears while I was on the phone.

So on the following Tuesday afternoon, with the help of my sister, I made my third visit to the ER (in retrospect- I should have just gone to a different hospital).  During this visit, they took more blood, did not do an ultrasound, and diagnosed me with sciatica.  The nurse looked at me and commented “Welcome to pregnancy!”

My leg pain was so intense that it made me cry, and it also kept me from sleeping- my leg was mottled, swollen, and purple.  My sister became very angry with the staff in the ER and called my PCP to demand that he see me.  He diagnosed me with cellulitis via phone, prescribed me an antibiotic, and scheduled an appointment for Thursday, one full week after my first symptoms.

My pain was excruciating, and I was scared for me and my unborn daughter, not to mention extremely frustrated because I could not get relief from my symptoms, due to the series of missed diagnoses.  On Thursday, I was still unaware of what was wrong with me.  I was finally seen by my PCP, who thought that it might be a problem with my hip, so I was sent to his hospital, a different one from the previous) and had an X-ray and lab work done.

My PCP called me later that afternoon and said my X-rays were fine but my blood work made him curious, a point that he did not elaborate.  He scheduled me for an MRI the next morning.  The radiologist read my MRI while I was in the machine and insisted on an immediate ultrasound-that he did himself.  It showed that I had an acute DVT which had probably started in my abdomen and moved into my femoral artery.

I was told to go home, not move, and wait until my doctor could consult with a vascular surgeon.  The surgeon put me on Lovenox® (a blood thinner) which I had to inject into my stomach twice a day for the remainder of my pregnancy.  I was told that I did not need any surgical intervention.

After my pregnancy, I continued on blood thinners, but was switched to Coumadin® for 3 more months, and now I consult with my hematologist every 3 months.  My tests showed no clotting disorders, although there is a family history of DVT.  My grandmother had a DVT and pulmonary embolism (PE), her brother had a DVT, and her sister died after giving birth to her second child from a PE.  My hematologist thinks the clots may have been due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy.  I wear a compression stocking 12 hours a day on one leg to prevent complications of DVT, and take low dose aspirin daily, which my hematologist added “just to be safe.”

I can no longer take hormonal birth control, and I must consult with my doctor when I fly or have surgery, and if I become pregnant again, I will have to take Lovenox® throughout any future pregnancy.

My DVT experience was terrifying and frustrating.  I cannot understand why it took a series of doctors and repeated ultrasounds to diagnose my DVT, especially since my symptoms were classic.  One positive note is that my daughter was born healthy, even though I did have some further complications. A week after her birth, I began to hemorrhage, went into shock, had to have multiple blood transfusions, and surgery to remove the remains of the placenta left in my uterus after her birth.  Fortunately, she and I are both doing very well, and my daughter, Anna, is now 11 months old.

Take Home Messages

  • Pregnancy makes blood more likely to clot (“hypercoaguable”), especially toward the end
  • Family history of blood clots is significant in terms of individual risk
  • Hormonal based birth control increases risk for blood clots
  • It is not uncommon for DVTs to be diagnosed as something else-in this case, sciatica and cellulitis, and persistence is necessary at times to get a correct diagnosis
  • Diagnosis via phone is not as reliable as in-person assessment
  • Aspirin has no effect on treating DVTs
  • Risk for clots increases with any travel longer than 4 hours, especially if traveler does not move around or do heel toe exercises while seated

 

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Author: admin

14 Responses to "Theresa Boland’s Blood Clot Story"

  1. Angie Spence
    Angie Spence Posted on November 21, 2013 at 5:16 am

    This exact same thing happened to me. It was the worst. Even the er nurse admitted that she was thinking I was another pregnant lady complaining for nothing.

  2. Estelle
    Estelle Posted on December 11, 2013 at 3:40 am

    The same thing happened to me as we’ll.
    I was 19 years old at the time not over weight and I was in my 17 week with my son.
    My doctor was on vacation (luckily in the area) when I first went into the ER.
    The first doctor said it was just my 1st pregnancy and I was worrying for nothing and he sent me home.
    A week later I wasn’t able to stand because that is how much pain I was in. I went back to the ER and the 2nd doctor said the same thing as the first one so he sent me home.
    As I was getting ready a nurse came in with my discharge papers and got a glimpse of my leg and told me about her daughter going through the same thing so she recommended I get a third opinion so I did.
    I kept asking them to contact my doctor. It took them a few hours but he came through met me at the hospital and had me do an ultrasound. Not even 15 minutes later he came back and said I had DVT for a such a young age. From there he kept an close eye on me. He had me on lovenox until I went in to have my son, then he switch my meds. After I had my son for a few months I still had to do weekly check ups as well as take Coumadin for a few months.
    All in the end my son and I made it though the pregnancy with no other complications and he came out healthy.
    Now I’m 23 pregnant again I have to go through the same thing but a low dose of Lovenox just to stay on the safe side so I don’t get another blood clot.

  3. Darlene
    Darlene Posted on December 27, 2013 at 5:33 am

    I too had a blood clot immediately after having my first baby. I just had a c-sect and was still in the hospital when it was confirmed. I did the same with the Lovenox and the Coumadin, along with the compression stockings. I was 29 at the time the baby was born. Since then I have been pregnant 9 more times. Each time I have to do the whole routine of Lovenox injections, which I dread, but when the baby is born it is always so worth it to me. I had 4 more children after the first baby, and miscarried 4 little angels 🙁 Today, I am pregnant with my 6th and last little blessing. I am frightened about getting a clot again because now I am 41 and I know with situations like this it gets a bit more dangerous each time., I just keep praying for a healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby. I am only 6 weeks pregnant so I am in that scary phase of the first trimester, longing to be in a little bit safer phase. The first trimester is just the first huge obstacle, but it will make me closer to having the baby.
    Ever since I got the clot that leg has venous insufficiency and has caused spider and varicose veins as well as a purple foot (Oh, what us Mommies go through to have babies.)
    Has your leg responded that way too? I call it my grandma leg.

    • Emilia
      Emilia Posted on May 10, 2016 at 7:15 am

      Wow Darlene, you are an inspiration! I had blood clots in my lungs with my first baby and after complaining for 5 months of chest pains and explicitly telling the doctors that I have PE (In spite of me having little medical knowledge…) they finally confirmed that yay! I have bilateral PE and I need urgent treatment. So I went through all the lovely experience with the injections, got my purple foot, varicose veins and all… and then had to have an emergency C Section when they told me there are 50% chances that I don’t wake up. This while 20 students were sitting around me studying my case as if I was a hamster and the doctor told me that surgery takes place in 30 minutes. Wonderful indeed. Didn;t even get the chance to tell dad that I might die… Now I am pregnant with my second baby and scared to death of what might come, but even more scared of the NHS… They said I have a clotting disorder and that things will go worse and worse with each pregnancy, however they didn’t bother to even book me a regular check up after 2 months of chasing. They are still deciding which clinic I have to go to. Since you went through this a lot, can you please tell me, when do they start giving those injections and is it possible to give birth naturally when having the clots and a previous C section? I know you might not be a doctor but I am sure that you have more knowledge than them… I thank you in advance for your reply

  4. Nicole
    Nicole Posted on January 9, 2014 at 6:46 am

    I had some issues such as those. I went in for my first prenatal visit with my husband and got through all questions and concerns, mind you this is my second pregnancy, and the APN who was seeing me that day wanted to do an Ultrasound of the baby because I was ten weeks and she wanted us to hear the heartbeat for the first time. I mentioned a pretty severe pain I was having in my left upper thigh area and she said it was probably round ligament pain or pulled muscle common in pregnancy…I had no other symptoms other than severe pain and was even limping because it had been a week already that I’d been dealing with this pain. Well I went home and about three days later my father in law who is an OB/GYN 4 hours away from us came to visit for Christmas which was still a week away and noticed I was limping and was seriously concerned. He asked for my OB/GYN phone number, which I gave him the clinic number and it was a Saturday so they were closed, and my doctor doesn’t give out their personal number, although my father in law does because that’s just how much he cares for his patients so he called the hospital and asked for my doctors number in which she was not the on call doctor that weekend, so they gave my father in law the number to one of the other OB/GYN’s that are in the same clinic that was on call and he asked that doctor to meet me up at the clinic to examine me on a Saturday and that it was an emergency and explained my symptoms. Of course that on call doctor had no issues with that given orders from another doctor, so I saw him and he sent me right over to the hospital to get a Doppler ultrasound of my leg from the radiologist and sure enough it came back as DVT clots, I was calm until that doctor came back about 30 minutes after I found out and said we’ll admit you for about three days which was putting me at being released two days before Christmas 2013 and I broke down…I have a now as of 12/30/13, a 3 yr old healthy daughter, and was newly married with my best friend of 7 years and father of our daughter and I’m only 24 years old, and ten weeks pregnant, this just shouldn’t be happening to me is all I could think. After being admitted for 3 days and all my family coming into town for Christmas, I mentioned to my doctor that I had finally got to see on that Monday that I had a pain I was having in my left shoulder region and it had been there for as long as my leg was hurting…I didn’t think anything of it which is to why I didn’t mention it at first. She sent me right away to a high risk doctor considering I was pregnant and she wasn’t even sure what to do in terms of what was exactly safe for me and the baby and he ordered a CT scan which was such a risk but that risk outweighed the even bigger risk of possibly having a Pulmonary Embolism (PE). After one day and now it was Christmas Eve 2013 I assumed that the CT scan was alright because I was not getting any different treatments other than Lovenox twice a day, and when I would ask the nurse for my results she would say they weren’t allowed to say because my physician gave that order when I was admitted that they were to give the results to me and not the nurses so later that day my doctor came in and said well we’ve exhausted all we can do here and I can continue my injections at home and if any other complications arrise to come back of course, and considering it was Christmas Eve I was being discharged. I saw no intentions of her telling me the results of my CT scan because she knew I was already terrified so I asked..and she solemnly told me I do have a PE but being that I’m pregnant there is nothing else they can do but keep an eye on me, put me as high risk, have the high risk doctor on call for me if I end up back in the ER with larger more serious PE symptoms, and keep me as coagulated as possible with twice a day Lovenox for the rest of my pregnancy. I’ve been home now for almost three weeks and feel wonderful, my DVT in my leg does not hurt so I’m positve my body dissolved those, but my PE hurts pretty bad still when I yawn or take deep breaths. I see my doctor for the first time since my release this Tuesday and we’ll go over symptoms and get things checked out in hopes of some better news. I pray everyday…I am young, always otherwise been healthy, took birth control for three years after my daughter was born and had no problems with that and had no problems with my daughters pregnancy…things happen for a reason is my saying, but this time it’s “why me” but I’m happy to be alive for my family and baby #2 and I pray that things only get better from here!!

  5. Emily
    Emily Posted on April 7, 2014 at 3:53 am

    I had a similar situation – not as extreme because I was diagnosed right away with a DVT but mine is humongous running from my pelvis all the way down to my ankle, and i was diagnosed in my first trimester, very early on. So I’ve been on injections for a solid year now because I choose to breastfeed. Were you put on Coumadon after breastfeeding was over? My specialist said as long as I’m breastfeeding I have to remain on injections but it gets tough. My belly is covered in bruises, I have knots beneath those bruises from where the blood clumps up or something like that. My little girl is worth it of course, but I’m curious how long mothers have stayed on injections. By the time I’m finished, it’ll have been almost 2 years! That’s a lot to handle, so I plan on only having one more!

  6. mark
    mark Posted on January 18, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    Hi, Can I ask how long you had the severe pain with walking etc with DVT. As my wife is 25 weeks and gone throught the same thing, just wondered how long it took, she is on claxane and the swelling etc has gone down but still agony to walk on?

  7. Jenn
    Jenn Posted on April 26, 2015 at 8:11 am

    30 yrs old during my 1st pregnancy, I had severe pain in my belly button starting at 5 months of pregnancy. I would tell the OBGYN at every visit but she said it was normal and probably the baby putting pressure on my tummy. Finally, by the 9th month, she sent me for an ultrasound. At that point they realized my baby was too small and sent me for an emergency c-section. It turned out to be a blood clot in my umbilical cord which was preventing my baby from receiving her nutrients to grow. She was born 2.5 pounds. By the grace of God, my daughter is alive and well but a day doesn’t go by when I think what could have happened.

  8. Sam
    Sam Posted on February 21, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Is it possible to have this in my back as I have all these symptoms but in my back

  9. Sam
    Sam Posted on February 21, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    I have just got out hospital yestaday theyv gave me injections for my partner to do til I get scan

  10. Mary Katherine
    Mary Katherine Posted on March 6, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Please ask them to consider a diagnosis of “May Thurner syndrome” if it was in your left leg. I had a clot from my abdomen to my left ankle at 7 weeks pregnant, and a missed PE diagnosis at 4 weeks pregnant. After my pregnancy they did a procedure to check for May Thurner and they placed a stent at the same time.

  11. Sandy
    Sandy Posted on August 31, 2016 at 7:25 am

    I had a similar experience… Went to the hospital 3 times. The pain developed very quickly while i was about 8 months pregnant.They would give me blood thinner and then check me for Dvt and of course it would show up fine and i would feel better after receiving the injection. They did an ultrasound but technician insisted it couldnt be higher than the thighs. The pain was severe in the pelvic area. I cried and pleaded for her to check higher and she said its not pissible for a dvt to be that high up in the leg. It was the most excruciating pain i have ever felt. I could not stand for more than a few minutes and even while lying down it hurt to move my leg (left one). I woke up one morning and had a voice inside me telling me ‘just go one more time to the hospital’ even though i didnt want to (staff were not happy with me showing up again). I asked them for an ultrasound again and thankfully i got a very kind technician. I asked him to check closer to the pelvic area and although he looked sceptical he did. The next thing i knew he turns off the machine, calls someone and tells me not to move. I was rushed into emergency and injected with blood thinners. He told me if i had not come in that day the clot would have Embolized. The only reason i kept going back is because i read about it online and saw someone else post a story and it felt exactly like what i was gojng through.

  12. AKS
    AKS Posted on September 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    After reading all these comments it actually scares me how so many other individuals have gone through the exact same thing. I was also going through a healthy pregnancy when at 23 weeks i started getting a pain in my left leg, thinking it was just a pulled muscle i thought nothing of it until co-workers forced me to go to the doctors. I was also limping and noticed swelling in my left leg. After 3 visits to ER and ultrasounds, I kept getting sent home with the same response ‘it’s nothing, you’ll be fine’ Of course the swelling and pain only got worse as the days went on until i forced myself to go back to ER and get rescanned. After the 4th ultrasound is when they discovered 4 clots in my upper left leg close to my pelvic area. I was shocked as to how these went unnoticed in the previous ultrasounds! Doctors should surely be aware of the risk of bloodclots during pregnancy and should take patients seriously when they come in. Now i’m hoping to get pregnant again next year and not sure whether i’ll be expected to be on blood thinners right from the get go? does anyone have any experience with this?