What are the treatment options for pulmonary embolism (PE) during pregnancy?

Updated: Sep 18, 2020
  • Author: Daniel R Ouellette, MD, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Heparin and fibrinolysis are safe in pregnancy. Failure to treat the mother properly is the most common cause of fetal demise.

Pregnant patients diagnosed with DVT or pulmonary embolism may be treated with LMWH throughout their pregnancy. Warfarin is contraindicated, because it crosses the placental barrier and can cause fetal malformations. Unfractionated heparin is category C. Therefore, LMWH at full anticoagulation doses should be continued until delivery. Women experiencing a thromboembolic event during pregnancy should receive therapeutic treatment with unfractionated heparin or LMWH during pregnancy, with anticoagulation continuing for 4-6 weeks postpartum and for a total of at least 6 months.

In addition to the thrombotic risks in pregnancy, women of childbearing age who are prescribed warfarin should be advised of the teratogenic effects of this drug. Alteplase is a category C drug, and should only be given following a judicious assessment of the risk-to-benefit ratio.

Pregnant women who are in a hypercoagulable state or who have had previous venous thromboembolism should receive prophylactic anticoagulation during pregnancy.

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