WASHINGTON – New advice for pregnant women: If you’re getting a C-section, special inflating boots strapped on your legs may lower the risk of a blood clot.
Hospitals already use these compression devices for other major operations, such as hip replacements, and a growing number have begun offering them for at least some of their cesarean deliveries, too.
Now guidelines for the nation’s obstetricians say it’s time to make the step routine for most C-sections, which account for nearly a third of U.S. births.
The new recommendations promise to raise awareness of a silent threat: Blood clots in veins that can masquerade as simple leg pain.
Called a DVT, for deep vein thrombosis, this kind of clot usually starts in the leg or groin. But it can kill if it moves up to the lungs, where it’s called a pulmonary embolism.
These clots make headlines every few years when seemingly healthy people collapse after long airplane flights or similar prolonged inactivity. Certain surgeries also can trigger a DVT.
Obesity, some types of injuries, even some birth control pills can increase the risk, too.
A woman’s risk of a DVT jumps during pregnancy and the six weeks afterward. That’s partly because of slower blood flow from the weight gain, and because Mom is less active in the last trimester and during those first few weeks of recovery from childbirth.
It’s also because pregnancy temporarily changes blood to make it clot more easily.
“This is a consequence of nature’s protecting women against the bleeding challenges of childbirth,” explains Dr. Andra James of Duke University, who co-authored the new guidelines.