BACKGROUND : Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Pregnancy and the puerperium are
hypercoagulable states and increase the risk of VTE. There is a paucity of South African (SA) data related to use of thromboprophylaxis
during pregnancy and the puerperium.
OBJECTIVES : To evaluate local practice of VTE risk stratification among SA pregnant women and senior doctors’ attitudes to VTE prophylaxis.
METHODS. This was a cross-sectional descriptive study of conveniently sampled sites in the private and public health sectors. Patients with
confirmed pregnancy and an underlying medical condition were enrolled after giving informed consent. Assessments were made based on
the participating doctors’ questionnaires and case report forms. In essence, this was a local evaluation of a specific group of patients by a
specific group of doctors.
RESULTS : Two hundred and twenty patients were enrolled at six sites. In the participating doctors’ opinion, 126/220 women assessed (57.2%)
were at risk of VTE during pregnancy and the postpartum period (information was missing for 1 woman during the postpartum period).
Of the women at risk of VTE, 23/126 (18.3%) were at high risk, 59/126 (46.8%) at moderate risk and 44/126 (34.9%) at low risk. Of the
women identified as at risk of VTE, 104/127 (81.9%) received some form of VTE prophylaxis; 94/127 (74.0%) were at risk during pregnancy
and 32/126 (25.4%) during the postpartum period. Of those who received pharmacological treatment, 15/15 received low-molecular-weight
heparin during pregnancy and before delivery and 87/100 during the puerperium. Thirty-four patients received thromboprophylaxis for
only 5 - 10 days after caesarean delivery, and 2 received mechanical thromboprophylaxis during pregnancy.
CONCLUSIONS : Doctors participating in the study were generally aware of VTE risk during pregnancy and the puerperium. Pharmacological
thromboprophylaxis was the most commonly used intervention to reduce VTE risk. Mechanical thromboprophylaxis was underutilised.
Adherence to VTE guidelines, specifically in terms of duration of thromboprophylaxis and its utilisation during pregnancy, was suboptimal.