This article discusses the management of venous thromboembolism (VTE) and thrombophilia, as well as the use of antithrombotic agents, during pregnancy and is part of the American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (8th Edition). Grade 1 recommendations are strong and indicate that benefits do, or do not, outweigh risks, burden, and costs. Grade 2 recommendations are weaker and imply that the magnitude of the benefits and risks, burden, and costs are less certain. Support for recommendations may come from high-quality, moderate-quality or low-quality studies; labeled, respectively, A, B, and C.
Among the key recommendations in this chapter are the following: for pregnant women, in general, we recommend that vitamin K antagonists should be substituted with unfractionated heparin (UFH) or low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) [Grade 1A], except perhaps in women with mechanical heart valves. For pregnant patients, we suggest LMWH over UFH for the prevention and treatment of VTE (Grade 2C). For pregnant women with acute VTE, we recommend that subcutaneous LMWH or UFH should be continued throughout pregnancy (Grade 1B) and suggest that anticoagulants should be continued for at least 6 weeks postpartum (for a total minimum duration of therapy of 6 months) [Grade 2C].
For pregnant patients with a single prior episode of VTE associated with a transient risk factor that is no longer present and no thrombophilia, we recommend clinical surveillance antepartum and anticoagulant prophylaxis postpartum (Grade 1C). For other pregnant women with a history of a single prior episode of VTE who are not receiving long-term anticoagulant therapy, we recommend one of the following, rather than routine care or full-dose anticoagulation: antepartum prophylactic LMWH/UFH or intermediate-dose LMWH/UFH or clinical surveillance throughout pregnancy plus postpartum anticoagulants (Grade 1C). For such patients with a higher risk thrombophilia, in addition to postpartum prophylaxis, we suggest antepartum prophylactic or intermediate-dose LMWH or prophylactic or intermediate-dose UFH, rather than clinical surveillance (Grade 2C). We suggest that pregnant women with multiple episodes of VTE who are not receiving long-term anticoagulants receive antepartum prophylactic, intermediate-dose, or adjusted-dose LMWH or intermediate or adjusted-dose UFH, followed by postpartum anticoagulants (Grade 2C). For those pregnant women with prior VTE who are receiving long-term anticoagulants, we recommend LMWH or UFH throughout pregnancy (either adjusted-dose LMWH or UFH, 75% of adjusted-dose LMWH, or intermediate-dose LMWH) followed by resumption of long-term anticoagulants postpartum (Grade 1C).
We suggest both antepartum and postpartum prophylaxis for pregnant women with no prior history of VTE but antithrombin deficiency (Grade 2C). For all other pregnant women with thrombophilia but no prior VTE, we suggest antepartum clinical surveillance or prophylactic LMWH or UFH, plus postpartum anticoagulants, rather than routine care (Grade 2C).
For women with recurrent early pregnancy loss or unexplained late pregnancy loss, we recommend screening for antiphospholipid antibodies (APLAs) [Grade 1A]. For women with these pregnancy complications who test positive for APLAs and have no history of venous or arterial thrombosis, we recommend antepartum administration of prophylactic or intermediate-dose UFH or prophylactic LMWH combined with aspirin (Grade 1B).
We recommend that the decision about anticoagulant management during pregnancy for pregnant women with mechanical heart valves include an assessment of additional risk factors for thromboembolism including valve type, position, and history of thromboembolism (Grade 1C). While patient values and preferences are important for all decisions regarding antithrombotic therapy in pregnancy, this is particularly so for women with mechanical heart valves. For these women, we recommend either adjusted-dose bid LMWH throughout pregnancy (Grade 1C), adjusted-dose UFH throughout pregnancy (Grade 1C), or one of these two regimens until the thirteenth week with warfarin substitution until close to delivery before restarting LMWH or UFH) [Grade 1C]. However, if a pregnant woman with a mechanical heart valve is judged to be at very high risk of thromboembolism and there are concerns about the efficacy and safety of LMWH or UFH as dosed above, we suggest vitamin K antagonists throughout pregnancy with replacement by UFH or LMWH close to delivery, after a thorough discussion of the potential risks and benefits of this approach (Grade 2C).