December 27, 2019
A new review published in the Journal of Travel Medicine recommends simple steps pregnant women can take to reduce their risk of blood clots caused by air travel.
Blood clotting is a part of our natural healing process after an injury. Blood clots can become dangerous, however, according to the American Society of Hematology, when they do not dissolve on their own or they develop inside a blood vessel where there is no apparent injury. When a clot in a vein prevents blood from returning to the heart this can cause pain and swelling.
DVT, or deep vein thrombosis, is a type of clot that develops in a major vein of the body, most often the leg. A pulmonary embolism occurs when the clot spreads through the body to the lungs.
Separately, pregnancy and long-distance flights are both risk factors for blood clots, which means pregnant travelers especially need to be wary.
According to the research by Dr. Divya Karsanji of the University of Calgary in Canada and colleagues, the risk of air travel for most pregnant or postpartum women is less than 1%, but that increases when women are faced with other risk factors, like a family history of venous thromboembolism, commonly known as VTE.
The experts say that pregnant women on long flights should take extra precautions, like frequent walks around the cabin, drinking plenty of water and doing calf exercises.
Pregnant women planning to travel by plane who have other VTE risk factors should wear 20-30 mmHg compression stockings and possibly take an injectable blood-thinner. Reuters reported that some studies have linked blood thinners to complications in the delivery room, so pregnant women should consult their doctor.
Other risk factors for blood clots include height, weight, recent surgical procedures, use of an oral contraceptive, hormone replacement therapy and family history.
Dr. Leslie Skeith of the University of Calgary old Reuters that in 2020 researchers will be conducting a pilot clinical trial investigating whether aspirin can help reduce the risk of blood clots in postpartum women with other VTE risk factors.
"We desperately need more research to better prevent blood clots in pregnant and postpartum women. We recommend talking to your doctor about different options." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises that it is generally safe for women to travel until they are 36 weeks pregnant, and the most ideal time to travel is between weeks 14 and 28.