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Blood clots most threatening in pregnancy

Courtesy KPLC / NBC News Channel

A terrifying diagnosis for an Oberlin mom-to-be put herself and the life of her unborn baby in jeopardy. Melissa Meaux was told she had a substantial blood clot, something that is more likely in pregnant women.

"We've been on Heparin now for six weeks after your delivery," said Women & Children's OB/GYN Dr. TriCia Guidry as she examined Meaux.

It is the final check-up to ensure that Meaux is healthy enough to stay off twice daily blood thinners. "You're done with your shots now, no more shots," said Dr. Guidry.

For 13 weeks, Meaux has had to give herself shots of blood thinners twice a day - all to keep her blood flowing after a pregnancy nightmare. "At 30 weeks, I noticed some leg pain so I drove in to the emergency room," said Meaux.

Doctors could not find the problem at 30 weeks and sent Meaux home. Two weeks later, though, a stabbing pain and leg swelling sent Meaux to the ER again. "It started doubling in size, my leg turning purple and the pain was so intense that I couldn't stand up or walk," she said.

Dr. Guidry treats Meaux and says it was an ultrasound that detected a substantial blood clot - threatening mom and baby. Meaux had to be hospitalized overnight and given an IV drip of blood thinner. 

"A blood clot is a process that occurs that prevents bleeding when a blood vessel is injured," said Dr. Guidry. Family history, weight or trauma can all lead to blood clots in pregnancy - most common during the third trimester. "At that time, the estrogen levels are really high," said Dr. Guidry, "and most pregnant people tend to put on their weight in that third trimester and we become a little bit more sedentary."

The symptoms are sudden pain, tenderness or swelling in the arms or legs. Chest or abdominal pain might also be experienced, as well as complications with the lungs. "Blood clots can become dangerous when they start to travel, because they can move from a lower extremity into the lungs and that's when it becomes really dangerous," said Dr. Guidry.

Meaux is sharing her scary experience to hopefully help other moms-to-be to know what to look for, now that she is healthy again, along with now seven-month-old baby boy Jake. "I was just wanting to find out what was wrong," she said, "I had no clue what was wrong and I wanted to know."

If Meaux were to get pregnant again, she would have to take blood thinners through the entire pregnancy.     

Blood clots can be prevented by staying active, knowing your risk factors and gaining a healthy weight during pregnancy.

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