I Got a Blood Clot During My First Pregnancy.
Obviously, since I am writing this blog post, I survived the blood clot. This is information I wouldn’t typically share with the world, even though I do have this public blog. But I have a procedure coming up in a couple of days that I am a bit nervous about. The procedure is a minor surgery that relates to the blood clot, so I’ve been thinking about my past health history a bit more recently. (Man, as I type this, I sure hope that the pre-existing clause of the Affordable Care Act is never reversed.)
Keep reading for my blood clot story.
About 9 Weeks into My First Pregnancy, I Got a Blood Clot.
There I was, pregnant with my first child and super happy about it. One day, about 9 weeks into the pregnancy, I woke up to excruciating leg pain. And I mean excruciating. When I went to walk, I just about couldn’t. I had to slowly hobble around my house, crying with every step. Getting from the bed to the toilet at night was almost impossible. It was so bad that I borrowed a walker from my in-laws.
My father-in-law, a doctor, ordered me to quickly get an ultrasound. So I went, and they didn’t find anything. The pain continued, and the next day I went to see the midwives. I made an emergency appointment to tell them about the pain, and how I needed help. I was so desperate that I said if this is what the rest of my pregnancy was going to be like, I wasn’t sure I could do it. (Yes, the pain was that bad. There is no way I could have survived 7 more months of that sort of acute pain.)
The midwives suggested I go to see a vein doctor. So I did and had another ultrasound. This time the blood clot was found. Hallelujah! I had a blood clot right near the entrance to the DVT, but still in a superficial vein. Because it was so close, they took it very seriously. (Or perhaps all blood clots are treated very seriously–I wouldn’t know.) And I now had a treatment plan that would ease the pain.
Of course, getting this news was a bit scary. When I hear blood clot, I think ‘head the emergency room so you don’t die.’ I sort of shutdown. As I headed down to the pharmacy to pick up my pregnancy-approved blood thinner shots, I was happy to have a girlfriend meet me there to help me absorb the news.
I had to give myself a blood thinner shot everyday for the rest of the pregnancy. Who am I kidding? My wonderful husband injected me almost every day in the thigh or stomach. I am so thankful he did that for me. (I believe I was on Fragmin with that pregnancy, although I am not 100% sure.) (And thank God for health insurance because the medicine cost at least $1000 a month, if not more.)
Almost as soon as I found out about the blood clot, I got a call from the midwives. I was dumped, since I was now considered a high-risk pregnancy. I had to go to my regular OB, which was fine since everything turned out wonderfully (as here I am, alive in the universe with my precious son). I also had follow up appointments with the vein doctor to make sure the clot dissolved. And, I saw a hematologist since I went on Coumadin after delivery (you need to be monitored for dosage). He also checked for clotting disorders (which I don’t have, in case my health history is super interesting to you).
I Was on Lovenox My Second Pregnancy
As soon as it was confirmed that I was pregnant again, my obstetricians put me on Lovenox to help prevent another blood clot. This is another blood thinner shot, so I was blessed to go through all of those injections again. I think my husband was a little less into doing it this time around–I already have blocked it out of my memory.
Sometimes I think all of this began in June of 2005, when I tore my ACL playing Ultimate Frisbee. I had an ACL replacement surgery shortly after, but never quite healed properly from it. In April of 2007, I had another operation to remove scar tissue and help me get back my range of motion.
Over the next couple of years, I developed a varicosity (read varicose vein) in that leg. And since the ACL tear, that leg has always slightly bigger and redder than my “normal” leg. Sometimes the leg would ache or hurt–enough that I had at least two quickly scheduled ultrasounds that did not reveal a blood clot.
I think that all of this, plus genetics, plus crazy pregnancy hormones made it likely for me to get a blood clot.
Thoughts Surrounding Pregnancy and Blood Clots
It freaks me out so much that the blood clot was missed on the first ultrasound I had. Or, maybe it hadn’t fully developed at that point, and it took another day or so to be visible? I have no idea, but I am so glad that I persisted and kept pressing to find a solution for the pain. I am also thankful that the pain was so great…if it had not hurt as much, perhaps I would not have sought treatment, and who knows what would have happened.
My leg has been bothering me for many months (if not years), especially at the end of the day. After months of coordinating with insurance, I was able to see a vein doctor in Denver. They did another ultrasound and found evidence of a past clot in the superficial vein and a past clot in the DVT.
This makes me feel nervous and scared. Why are all these ultrasounds finding different things? Have I had one blood clot or two? Was the DVT one from the pregnancy, or have I had another clot in the DVT that dissipated? Was one less painful so it went unnoticed? Once you have a blood clot, you are at a higher risk for another one.
Regardless, we decided to close off the superficial vein that has clot evidence, as well as venous insufficiency, with a laser procedure. The blood should reroute a different way, and my pain may be reduced. They will also treat the small varicose vein while they’re in there, as that causes pain and swelling as well.
Why I Am Sharing My Blood Clot Story
Because having a blood clot is scary.
Having a blood clot when you are pregnant for the first time is scary and stressful. Being forced to take a medication that you don’t really want to take in case it impacts your little fetus is scary and stressful. But I survived all of this, had a healthy son, got pregnant again, took more medication, and had another healthy son.
Having a blood clot can be a long-haul type of thing, but it really doesn’t have to be a huge deal. I hope that after this upcoming procedure, I can label all of this as an annoyance.
But mainly, if you have severe pain somewhere in your body, get it checked. If they don’t find anything, persist until you get answers. Even if you are overwhelmed, even if you don’t want to spend money on many doctors, even if you feel silly making an emergency appointment with a health provider…persist.