Venous Thromboembolism During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period: Risk Factors, Diagnostic Testing, and Treatment

Brandon C. Maughan, Maria Marin, Justin Han, Karen J. Gibbins, Anupama G. Brixey, Aaron B. Caughey, Jeffrey A. Kline, Angela F. Jarman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Importance: The risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) increases during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Deep vein thrombosis is the most common VTE during pregnancy, but pulmonary embolism is typically of greater concern as it contributes to far higher morbidity and mortality. Diagnosis and treatment of VTE during pregnancy differ substantially from the general nonpregnant population. Objective: This review describes the epidemiology, risk factors, clinical presentation, diagnosis, and treatment of VTE during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Evidence Acquisition: First, we reviewed the VTE guidelines from professional societies in obstetrics, cardiology, hematology, emergency medicine, pulmonology, and critical care. Second, we examined references from these documents and used PubMed to identify recent articles that cited the guidelines. Finally, we searched PubMed and Google Scholar for articles published since 2018 that included terms for pregnancy and the epidemiology, risk factors, diagnostic imaging, or treatment of VTE. Results: Venous thromboembolism risk increases throughout pregnancy and peaks shortly after delivery. More than half of pregnancy-related VTE are associated with thrombophilia; other major risks include cesarean delivery, postpartum infection, and the combination of obesity with immobilization. Most VTE can be treated with low molecular weight heparin, but cases of limb- or life-threatening VTE require consideration of thrombolysis and other reperfusion therapies. Conclusions and Relevance: Venous thromboembolism is far more frequent in antepartum and postpartum women than age-matched controls, and clinical suspicion for VTE in this population should incorporate pregnancy-specific risks. Treatment of limb- or life-threatening antepartum or postpartum VTE requires multispecialty coordination to optimize maternal and fetal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-444
Number of pages12
JournalObstetrical and Gynecological Survey
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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