A Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Joseph Akinde, says pulmonary embolism can lead to sudden death in pregnancy.
Akinde said there is an increased tendency for the blood in a pregnant woman to form a clot.
The gynaecologist, who is the Chairman, Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, Lagos chapter, disclosed this during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise.
He spoke against the background of a study published in Obstetrics Gynaecology International Journal, describing pulmonary embolism as a complication of venous thrombosis.
The study says the condition is a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths at any trimester.
He noted that immobility leads to blood clot formation within the blood system, urging pregnant women not to be confined to bed.
Mayo Clinic says pulmonary embolism is a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs.
“In most cases, pulmonary embolism is caused by blood clots that travel to the lungs from deep veins in the legs or, rarely, from veins in other parts of the body (deep vein thrombosis)”, it said.
Akinde said, “Pulmonary embolism has been recognised as one of the causes of maternal deaths. When pregnant women have certain health conditions that confine them to bed, it will try to promote the formation of blood clots in their blood vessels.
“Pregnancy itself can expose a woman to the risk of blood clot, as well as surgery. Obesity is also a risk factor.
“The truth of the matter is that the presentation or diagnosis of pulmonary embolism is difficult to make. It is the cause of sudden death among pregnant women, particularly around the delivery period.
“Now, because diagnosis is difficult to make, medical practitioners have to have high index of suspicion. They need to be on the lookout for it so that it can be prevented.
“We have a feeling that the number of unexplained maternal deaths may be due to pulmonary embolism.”
The United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention says although anyone can develop blood clot, women are at higher risk for the condition during pregnancy, childbirth, and up to three months after delivery.
“In fact, pregnant women are five times more likely to experience blood clot, compared with women who are not pregnant,” CDC warns.
Gynaecologist Akinde urged pregnant women to engage in physical activities and register for antenatal care in health facilities where there are skilled birth attendants.
According to authors in the review article published in Obstetrics Gynaecology International Journal, “Pulmonary embolism is a complication of disturbance of coagulation which leads to thromboembolic disease.”
“The symptoms and signs of pulmonary embolism are not specific in pregnant women and the diagnosis may be delayed or missed,” the study added.
The World Health Organisation says maternal mortality is unacceptably high, globally.
“About 295,000 women died during pregnancy and following childbirth in 2017. The vast majority of these deaths (94 percent) occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.
‘Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia accounted for approximately 86 percent (254,000) of the estimated global maternal deaths in 2017,” WHO notes.
Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate is 512 per 100,000 live births, according to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey.
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