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The assessment of venous thromboembolism risks associated with pregnancy

Summary

The national investigation

Thrombosis and thromboembolism is the leading cause of direct maternal death in the UK.

We have started an investigation looking at the assessment and communication of the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in pregnant and postnatal women. VTE is the collective term for the formation of blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).

During pregnancy and in the six weeks immediately following birth, the physiological changes experienced in healthy women increases their risk of experiencing a blood clot. Clots that form in the body’s deep veins (DVT) can detach, travel around the body, and become lodged in the lungs (PE). If undetected and untreated, a PE can be fatal.

The likelihood of experiencing a VTE is assessed against the presence of risk factors. These are dynamic in nature and should be considered throughout pregnancy and the critical postnatal period. This risk assessment is used to inform proactive strategies to reduce the chance of a VTE, including the prescription of anticoagulant (blood thinning) medication.