Blood Clots and Women’s Health – Overview

Blood Clots and Women’s Health – Overview


THROUGHOUT THEIR LIVES, WOMEN FACE A SERIES
OF BLOOD CLOTTING CHALLENGES UNIQUE TO THEIR GENDER. IMPORTANT CHOICES WOMEN MAKE ABOUT FAMILY
PLANNING OR BIRTH CONTROL, PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH, AND THE TREATMENT OF MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS LATER
IN LIFE, ALL CAN IMPACT THEIR POTENTIAL RISK FOR LIFE-THREATENING BLOOD CLOTS. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? EACH YEAR IN THE UNITED
STATES, ABOUT 900,000 PEOPLE ARE AFFECTED BY BLOOD CLOTS. ABOUT 100,000 OF THESE PEOPLE
WILL DIE. ANNUALLY, MORE PEOPLE LOSE THEIR LIVES DUE
TO BLOOD CLOTS THAN DUE TO BREAST CANCER, AIDS, AND AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENTS…COMBINED. DANGEROUS BLOOD CLOTS OFTEN FORM IN THE DEEP
VEINS OF A PERSON’S ARM OR LEG. THIS TYPE OF BLOOD CLOT IS CALLED A DEEP VEIN THROMBOSIS
OR D-V-T. IF A D-V-T IS LEFT UNTREATED, IT CAN BREAK OFF OR TRAVEL TO THE LUNGS. A BLOOD CLOT THAT TRAVELS TO THE LUNG IS CALLED
A PULMONARY EMBOLISM OR P-E AND CAN BE LIFE-THREATENING. WOMEN ARE MORE AT RISK FOR BLOOD CLOTS DURING
CHILD BEARING AGE, BUT THEY ALSO FACE UNIQUE RISKS LATER IN LIFE, WHEN THE ONSET OF MENOPAUSE
SYMPTOMS OCCUR. THE MOST COMMON METHOD OF BIRTH CONTROL IN
THE UNITED STATES IS THE BIRTH CONTROL PILL. MOST BIRTH CONTROL PILLS CONTAIN THE HORMONES
ESTROGEN AND SYNTHETIC PROGESTERONE, CALLED PROGESTIN, AND CONTRIBUTE TO AN INCREASED
RISK OF BLOOD CLOTS, BECAUSE THEY CAUSE THE LEVEL OF CLOTTING PROTEINS IN A WOMAN’S
BODY TO INCREASE. IN FACT, STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT NEWER BIRTH
CONTROL PILLS ACTUALLY POSE A RISK TWO-TIMES GREATER THAN OLDER BIRTH CONTROL PILLS DO. THE USE OF BIRTH CONTROL PATCHES AND RINGS
CONTAINING ESTROGEN ALSO INCREASE A WOMAN’S RISK FOR BLOOD CLOTS. FOR THE AVERAGE WOMAN TAKING BIRTH CONTROL
PILLS CONTAINING ESTROGEN, THE RISK OF A BLOOD CLOT IS RELATIVELY LOW, OR ABOUT 1 IN 300
PER YEAR. PATCHES AND RINGS WITH ESTROGEN DOUBLE THAT
RISK, AND INJECTABLE PROGESTIN, OR D-M-P-A, ALSO MAY INCREASE THE RISK UP TO TWO-FOLD THE RISKS ARE MUCH HIGHER, HOWEVER, FOR WOMEN
WHO HAVE ALREADY HAD A BLOOD CLOT OR WHO HAVE A FAMILY HISTORY OF BLOOD CLOTS, AND THEY
SHOULD ONLY USE BIRTH CONTROL METHODS THAT CONTAIN ESTROGEN IF THEY ARE TAKING ANTICOAGULATION
THERAPY OR BLOOD THINNERS. WHETHER YOU HAVE A CLOTTING DISORDER OR NOT,
YOU CAN PLAN YOUR FAMILY AS YOU CHOOSE. THERE ARE BIRTH CONTROL OPTIONS THAT CAN HELP
YOU AVOID THE INCREASED RISK OF BLOOD CLOTS, INCLUDING: — BARRIER METHODS
— SPERMICIDES — THE COPPER IUD
— TUBAL LIGATION OR VASECTOMY FOR YOUR PARTNER — PROGESTIN-ONLY PILLS, WHICH DO NOT INCREASE
THE RISK FOR BLOOD CLOTS
— AND, THE PROGESTIN IMPLANT PREGNANCY IS A MAJOR RISK FACTOR FOR THE DEVELOPMENT
OF DANGEROUS BLOOD CLOTS, AND CAN INCREASE A WOMAN’S BLOOD CLOT RISK FOUR-FOLD. THIS RISK ONLY INCREASES — UP TO 20-FOLD
— IN THE WEEKS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING CHILD BIRTH. THE GREATEST RISK OCCURS IN THE FIRST WEEK
AFTER THE BABY IS BORN, WHEN IT IS AS HIGH AS 100-FOLD. THIS TENDENCY FOR A WOMAN’S BODY TO FORM CLOTS
DURING PREGNANCY IS THE RESULT OF A NATURAL RESPONSE TO PROTECT WOMEN AGAINST THE BLEEDING
CHALLENGES OF MISCARRIAGE AND CHILDBIRTH. IN GENERAL, THERE ARE SEVERAL GROUPS OF WOMEN
WHO NEED TO BE ON ANTICOAGULANTS OR BLOOD THINNING MEDICATION DURING PREGNANCY, INCLUDING: — WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD A BLOOD CLOT AND ARE
ALREADY TAKING BLOOD THINNING MEDICATION — WOMEN WHO HAVE HAD A BLOOD CLOT IN THE
PAST, BUT ARE NOT CURRENTLY TAKING BLOOD THINNING MEDICATION — WOMEN WHO DEVELOP A BLOOD CLOT DURING PREGNANCY. — AND, AFTER DELIVERY, WOMEN WHO HAVE NOT
HAD A CLOT, BUT WHO HAVE OTHER MAJOR RISK FACTORS, SUCH AS OBESITY THERE ARE BLOOD THINNING MEDICATIONS, INCLUDING
STANDARD OR UNFRACTIONATED HEPARIN AND LOW MOLECULAR WEIGHT HEPARIN, THAT ARE SAFE IN
PREGNANCY, BECAUSE THEY DO NOT CROSS THE PLACENTA OR ENTER THE BLOOD STREAM OF THE UNBORN BABY. USE OF BLOOD THINNING PILLS LIKE WARFARIN
OR THE NEWER ORAL ANTICOAGULANT THERAPIES ARE COMMONLY PRESCRIBED FOR MANY PEOPLE, BUT
THEY ARE NOT CONSIDERED SAFE FOR UNBORN BABIES. AFTER DELIVERY, WOMEN WITH CLOTTING DISORDERS
NEED TO RESUME ANTICOAGULATION OR BLOOD THINNER THERAPY. ALSO, WOMEN CAN BREASTFEED WHILE
ON LOW MOLECULAR WEIGHT HEPARIN INJECTIONS OR WARFARIN, BUT THE SAFETY OF NEWER ORAL
ANTICOAGULANTS WHILE BREASTFEEDING HAS NOT YET BEEN DETERMINED. AS WOMEN APPROACH MENOPAUSE, THEY BEGIN TO
EXPERIENCE SYMPTOMS THAT ARE SOMETIMES TREATED WITH HORMONE THERAPY CONTAINING ESTROGEN,
WHICH AGAIN CAN INCREASE A WOMAN’S RISK FOR LIFE-THREATENING BLOOD CLOTS. AS WITH BIRTH CONTROL METHODS THAT CONTAIN
ESTROGEN, OR ESTROGEN WITH PROGESTIN, HORMONE THERAPY DOES NOT CAUSE BLOOD CLOTS. RATHER,
HORMONE THERAPY IS A RISK FACTOR FOR BLOOD CLOTS BECAUSE IT CONTAINS ESTROGEN. HORMONE THERAPY INCREASES A WOMAN’S RISK OF
BLOOD CLOTS UP TO THREE-FOLD, AND THE RISK FOR BLOOD CLOTS DUE TO HORMONE THERAPY IS
MUCH HIGHER AMONG WOMEN WITH A BLOOD CLOTTING DISORDER OR WITH A HISTORY OF BLOOD CLOTS,
UNLESS THEY ARE ON ANTICOAGULATION THERAPY OR BLOOD THINNERS. FOR WOMEN LOOKING TO AVOID THE RISK OF BLOOD
CLOTS CONNECTED TO HORMONE THERAPY, THE SYMPTOMS OF MENOPAUSE, SUCH AS MOOD CHANGES, HOT FLASHES,
SLEEPLESSNESS AND VAGINAL DRYNESS, CAN BE MANAGED WITHOUT ESTROGEN FOR SYMPTOM RELIEF. WOMEN SHOULD TALK TO THEIR DOCTOR OR HEALTHCARE
PROVIDER ABOUT THEIR BLOOD CLOT RISK FACTORS, PARTICULARLY IF THEY HAVE A FAMILY HISTORY
OF BLOOD CLOTS. YOUR DOCTOR CAN HELP YOU DETERMINE THE BEST
FAMILY PLANNING OPTIONS FOR YOU. IF YOU PLAN TO GET PREGNANT, OR LEARN THAT
YOU ARE PREGNANT, ALWAYS LET YOUR DOCTOR KNOW RIGHT AWAY, AND DISCUSS YOUR BLOOD CLOTTING
RISKS. WOMEN ENTERING MENOPAUSE SHOULD ASK THEIR
DOCTOR ABOUT WAYS TO PREVENT BLOOD CLOTS IF THEY DECIDE TO TAKE HORMONE THERAPY, OR CONSIDER
ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO MANAGE MENOPAUSE SYMPTOMS. IT’S CRUCIAL FOR WOMEN TO UNDERSTAND THEIR
BLOOD CLOT RISKS, AND ALSO TO RECOGNIZE AND SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IF THEY EXPERIENCE
THE SIGNS OR SYMPTOMS OF A BLOOD CLOT. THE SYMPTOMS OF A BLOOD CLOT IN YOUR LEG OR
ARM MIGHT INCLUDE: SWELLING, PAIN, OR TENDERNESS NOT CAUSED BY
INJURY SKIN THAT IS WARM TO THE TOUCH REDNESS OR DISCOLORATION THE SYMPTOMS OF A BLOOD CLOT IN YOUR LUNG
MIGHT INCLUDE: DIFFICULTY BREATHING CHEST PAIN THAT WORSENS WITH A DEEP BREATH COUGHING UP BLOOD WITH THE INFORMATION THEY NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
BLOOD CLOTS, AND AN UNDERSTANDING ABOUT THE SPECTRUM OF OPTIONS THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO
THEM, WOMEN CAN REDUCE THEIR CLOTTING RISK AT THESE DIFFERENT PIVOTAL LIFE STAGES – THEY
CAN “STOP THE CLOT” — AND ENJOY FULLY THE HAPPINESS THAT THESE LIFE STAGES OFFER.

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