Risk factors for and clinical management of venous thromboembolism during pregnancy
Venous thromboembolism (VTE), which comprises deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, is one of the leading causes of non-obstetric maternal death in the United States. Physiologic and anatomic changes associated with pregnancy set the stage for a hypercoagulable state. In addition, other risk factors-including those associated with certain fetal characteristics such as low birth weight or stillbirth-have been correlated with an increased risk for VTE. Women with a personal or strong family history of VTE, as well as documented thrombophilia, represent a unique group in whom antepartum and/or postpartum prophylaxis can be considered. The choice of anticoagulant therapy for either treatment or prophylaxis in most cases is heparin, most commonly low-molecular-weight heparin. This is owing to the fact that vitamin K antagonists and the direct oral anticoagulants are contraindicated in pregnancy because of potential teratogenicity. With careful management and vigilant monitoring, appropriate anticoagulation can be used safely and effectively to improve patient outcomes.