Serena Williams and her experience with Pulmonary Embolism

What complications arouse during Child Birth?

Tennis sensation Serena Williams has revealed in her interview with Vogue that she experienced the major health complication called “pulmonary embolism” shortly after giving birth to her baby in September 2017.

Serena Williams has had a medical history of blood clots in the deep veins (DVT i.e. Deep Vein Thrombosis) and was prescribed blood thinners (anti-coagulants) to prevent abnormal blood clotting.

Due to an emergency C-Section surgery recommendation for delivery, Serena was put off her daily dosage of blood thinners so as to avoid uncontrolled blood loss. This is the general medical advice before any surgical treatment and not just caesarean delivery.

Although the childbirth procedure went well, she experienced difficulties in breathing while recovering from the C-Section surgery. It was due to her awareness about the symptoms and her past experience with the disorder, she immediately realized that it was an incidence of pulmonary embolism.

Pulmonary embolism is a health scare caused due to the presence of blood clots in the lungs. This condition arises when the blood clots in the deep veins from the other parts of the body break free and travel to the lungs thus limiting the oxygen supply to the heart and eventually causing death.

Serena asked the doctors to conduct a CT scan of her lungs to check for blood clots. Doctors conducted an ultrasound scan of her legs followed by a CT scan and confirmed the presence of numerous small potentially life-threatening blood clots in her lungs.

Fortunately, the doctors were able to treat Serena’s embolism on time by putting her on life-saving blood-thinner drugs but these medications had side-effects on the faster healing of her C-Section wounds. Also, pulmonary embolism led to extreme coughing spells that forced her C-Section wounds to open up.

While trying to fix that through a surgical procedure, the doctors noticed a mass of clotted blood (hematoma) in her abdomen. Doctors had to then insert a filter in her major vein to prevent more blood clots from travelling to the lungs and heart.

Why do Pregnant women get Blood Clots?

It comes as a surprise to many that pulmonary embolism is the third most common form of cardiovascular disorder after heart attack and stroke. It is, however, known that women are at a greater risk of blood clots during pregnancy and shortly after childbirth. This risk is even higher for women like Serena Williams who have a medical history of blood clots.

Studies have cited that a pregnant woman is at least 4 to 5 times more probable of having a blood clot compared to when she is not pregnant. Every 1 or 2 out of 1000 pregnant women experience blood clots. Also, women who deliver via C-Section are roughly four times more likely to develop blood clots as compared to their counterparts who give birth through the vagina.

Let us understand what increases the likelihood of blood clots in women during pregnancy and after delivery:

  1. Hormonal changes during pregnancy promote the clotting of blood.
  2. As the baby grows in size, the veins of the uterus and pelvic region get compressed. This leads to poor blood flow and thus increases the chances of blood clot formation.
  3. The increased size of the uterus causes additional pressure on the veins in the pelvic region which slows down the blood flow.
  4. In late pregnancy, women are not able to move around for long periods and have poor physical activity levels which downgrade the blood flow in the legs and is the leading cause of blood clot formation in deep veins.

All the above-listed factors contribute to the development of blood clots in pregnant women and women remain to be at high risk for a few weeks even after childbirth as it takes time for the uterus to reduce in size and for the levels of the hormones to come back to usual. All pregnant women must keep a check for any early signs and symptoms of blood clots such as pain or swelling in the legs.

Like any other surgical procedure, a caesarean procedure also increases the probability of blood clots. Women who have had blood clots in the past must continue their regime of blood-thinners and anti-coagulants to avoid clotting during pregnancy. It is also suggested to use inflatable compression devices on a woman’s legs during the caesarean procedure.

If you are pregnant and have a medical history of blood clots, it is best to seek medical advice from a vascular expert along with your routine check-ups with an OB-Gynae healthcare practitioner. Dr. Rajah V Koppala is a highly qualified and thoroughly trained vascular surgeon and advanced laparoscopic surgeon. He is the best vascular expert for medical assistance for blood clots during pregnancy and after delivery.

With the in-house medical set-up of Doppler ultrasound scan and advanced laser treatment equipment along with a cashless Mediclaim facility for all treatment procedures, Avis Vascular Centre tops the list of the best medical institutes for the cure of varicose veins, blood clots in deep veins, and pulmonary embolism. Schedule your appointment with the distinguished vascular expert Dr. Rajah V Koppala today!

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