Optimum Use of Anticoagulants in Pregnancy
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Pregnant women pose special problems when deciding upon optimal anticoagulant therapy. Heparin does not cross the placenta and is probably safe for the fetus. Long term heparin therapy is occasionally associated with maternal haemorrhage and rarely with symptomatic osteoporosis. Coumarin derivatives, however, cross the placenta and are potentially teratogenic, particularly in the first trimester. Neonatal infant haemorrhage is a possibility if warfarin is administered to the pregnant mother near term. For the prevention and treatment of venous thromboembolism, heparin is the anticoagulant of choice since its safety and efficacy are well established. For the prevention of systemic embolism associated with prosthetic heart valves or valvular heart disease, the efficacy of heparin has not been established. Nevertheless, 12-hourly subcutaneous heparin in doses to prolong a mid-interval activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) to 1.5 times control is likely to be effective and safe. An alternative is to use heparin for the first trimester, change to warfarin until the middle of the third trimester, then to restart heparin until term. However, before warfarin is used in pregnant patients, the risks should be carefully explained to the patient to help avoid medicolegal problems. Warfarin can be safely used postpartum by the breast-feeding mother.
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