Antiphospholipid Syndrome in Pregnancy

Antiphospholipid syndrome is an
autoimmune disease. This happens when your immune system fights against normal
cells.

In this condition, your body makes
antibodies that attack a kind of fat (phospholipids) in cells. This causes many
problems. It makes your blood clot too easily. Your body may also make anticardiolipin
antibodies. Cardiolipin is a type of fat in cells.

This disease often causes:

  • Thrombosis. This happens when blood
    clots form in your arteries or veins, especially in your legs. If clots form in the
    blood vessels in your brain, you could have a stroke. Clots can also cause a blockage
    in the arteries to the lungs. This can be life-threatening.
  • Thrombocytopenia. This happens when
    your blood is low in platelets. Platelets are cells that are needed for your blood
    to
    clot.
  • Pregnancy loss (miscarriage). This
    may happen more than once. 

This condition affects women more
often than men. Women with this health problem are more likely to have pregnancy
problems. It isn’t known if antiphospholipid syndrome gets worse or stays the
same during pregnancy.  

This condition may also be called
Hughes syndrome, sticky blood syndrome, and antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

The cause of this condition is unknown. It may be caused by factors
in the environment and your genes. It seems to run in some families.

People with this condition don’t
have set symptoms. It’s often found when a woman has had: 

  • A blood clot in a deep vein or
    artery 
  • Low platelet count
  • Stroke or mini-stroke
  • Blood clot in the lungs
  • Unexplained miscarriages
  • Red blood cells that are destroyed
    (hemolytic anemia)
  • A purple, lacy skin problem called
    livedo reticularis

It’s often difficult to diagnose
this condition. Your healthcare provider will ask you about your health history. He
or
she will ask you about blood clots and pregnancies. You’ll also have an exam.

Your healthcare provider will also
do blood tests. These may include tests to check for the following:

  • Lupus anticoagulant
  • Anticardiolipin antibody
  • Anti-β2-glycoprotein

Your healthcare provider may need
to repeat all or some of these tests to confirm your diagnosis.

Treatment for this condition often
includes blood-thinner (anticoagulant) medicine to lower your chance of getting blood
clots. You may need different medicines or amounts during pregnancy. 

If you have this condition and are
pregnant, your healthcare provider will watch you closely. You’ll likely need checkups
more often. You may also need to have the following tests done:

  • Tests to check your blood clotting
    levels
  • Tests to check for high blood
    pressure 
  • Ultrasound. This test shows your
    internal organs and blood flow through vessels. This test is also done to check your
    baby’s growth, development, and well-being.
  • Fetal heart monitoring. This test
    checks your baby’s heart rate. It looks for signs of distress.
  • Doppler ultrasound studies. This test
    checks the blood flow in your uterus and umbilical cord.

Getting early prenatal care and
working closely with your healthcare provider can increase your chance of having a
healthy pregnancy.

This illness can cause serious
problems during pregnancy for both you and your baby. Women who have this condition
are
also at risk for other health problems. Some of these include:

  • Stroke
  • Blood clots
  • High blood pressure in pregnancy
    (preeclampsia or toxemia)
  • Stillbirth
  • Multiple miscarriages
  • Poor fetal growth
  • Preterm birth

Antiphospholipid syndrome is a
lifelong condition. Women need treatment. This will lower your chance of getting blood
clots. It will also reduce your risk for problems such as stroke and miscarriage.

Medicine can reduce your risk for
blood clots, but they can still happen. It’s important to follow your healthcare
provider’s care plan and have tests done as often as he or she recommends. Support
groups can help you meet other people with your condition. Ask your healthcare provider
about support groups in your area.

Call your healthcare provider right
away if you have signs of a stroke or blood clot.

Symptoms of a stroke include
trouble talking, smiling, moving your arms, or walking. Signs of a blood clot include
leg pain or swelling and trouble breathing.

You should also call your
healthcare provider if you’re bleeding or bruising more than normal.

  • Antiphospholipid syndrome is an
    autoimmune disease. It can cause life-threatening blood clots.
  • If you have this condition in
    pregnancy, your healthcare provider will watch you closely.
  • Medicine can help reduce your risk for
    blood clots, but they can still happen.
  • Getting early prenatal care and
    working with your healthcare provider can increase your chance of having a healthy
    pregnancy.

Tips to help you get the most from
a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and
    what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down
    questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask
    questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a
    new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new
    instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment
    is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated
    in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is
    recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take
    the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment,
    write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider
    if you have questions.