Emily had just given birth to her second child when she started to experienced unexplained, acute breathlessness
When I was pregnant in 2019 with my 2nd baby, I remember briefly being asked the VTE risk questions however I do not remember being explained just how large a risk being pregnant was to developing a clot. I had a higher risk pregnancy with a high BMI and gestational diabetes so I was quite overwhelmed with information at most midwife appointments.
hospital I was so excited to get home with my husband, son and my new baby
I gave birth to my baby girl in October 2019 after an induction due to my GD. I had an epidural so I did not move much post birth. On leaving the hospital I was so excited to get home with my husband, son and my new baby without having to worry about gestational diabetes or any other pregnancy issues. As I was leaving the ward my husband was walking in front of me and I remember feeling like I had been running as fast I could and I felt so out of breath just walking from the lift to the car. I held onto the car door handle trying to catch my breath and telling myself that it was just exhaustion from the last 24 hours and not to make a fuss as I wanted to get home.
trying to catch my breath and telling myself that it was just exhaustion
On the drive home I could feel my heart pounding in my chest and it felt difficult to get a big breath. I put this down to maybe a side effect from the epidural and again tried to push it out of my mind. I had more than my fair share of hospitals over the past 9 months and I didn't want to make my husband drive me back to the ward over a bit of exhaustion.
I felt like I was climbing a mountain
On going to bed that evening, walking up the stairs was a struggle, I felt like I was climbing a mountain. I hoped to get a few hours' sleep between feeds and feel better in the morning. However, the next morning I felt worse. My heart was racing, I felt so weak and my breathing was getting worse. I mentioned to my husband that I think I might mention it to the midwife on her visit that morning. On her arrival she asked me straight away if I was feeling ok. She noted how pale and out of breath I was. She asked me to move from one couch to the other and it was enough to leave me gasping for breath. I was sent to A&E straight away leaving my new born with my mother and grandmother who arrived just as I was leaving for the hospital. I told them I was ok and it will just be a quick check, I would be back as soon as possible. I was still in denial that anything could be seriously wrong.
I was still in denial that anything could be seriously wrong
In A&E I was taken straight away and it was all a bit of a blur. I sat crying while the consultant told me that he was concerned I had a blood clot on my lung but I was more upset that he wanted to re-admit me back to hospital. He was so understanding and managed to get me a bed in the maternity unit so I could have my baby with me. I had a VQ scan the following day but on arrival to radiology I was told that I would need 24 hours isolation from my children due to the radiation risk. This was hard especially when I was still thinking that I was just exhausted from birth and I couldn't possibly have a clot like they were saying.
it was confirmed that I had a PE in my left lung it hit me like a train
When the midwife appeared at my bedside with the news that yes, it was confirmed that I had a PE in my left lung it hit me like a train. I was told I was lucky to have caught it and I was on strong thinners so I should be ok. I saw the doctor the following day who told me how pregnancy and the first few weeks post birth has a higher risk for developing a DVT/PE. He explained that along with pregnancy, my high BMI and gestational diabetes they would have also contributed to a higher risk. He gave me a prescription for 3 months of thinners and booked me to see haematology to see if I had any genetic risks for developing clots.
risks will be raised with expecting parents more so that no one else brushes the signs off as I did
The next couple of months were tough. Not only the physical recovery of a PE but the mental impact it had on me. Knowing that I had experienced this life threating event and that I had almost brushed it off haunts me with the 'what ifs'. It took a good while for me to even sleep at night without worrying that something would happen while I slept. I have no genetic risks for developing another clot but have been made aware that I will now always be at a higher risk for developing another, especially if I was to have any more children. I now know all the signs and risks of a VTE and I would hope through the work that Thrombosis UK are doing that the risks will be raised with expecting parents more so that no one else brushes the signs off as I did.
by Andrew Kennedy