Safety of withholding heparin in pregnant women with a history of venous thromboembolism. Recurrence of Clot in This Pregnancy Study Group

N Engl J Med. 2000 Nov 16;343(20):1439-44. doi: 10.1056/NEJM200011163432002.


Background: Women with a history of venous thromboembolism may be at increased risk for venous thromboembolic events during pregnancy. In these women, the decision to give or withhold heparin in the antepartum period is controversial, because accurate estimates of the frequency of recurrent thromboembolic events if antepartum heparin is withheld are not available.

Methods: We prospectively studied 125 pregnant women with a single previous episode of venous thromboembolism. Antepartum heparin was withheld, but anticoagulant therapy was given for four to six weeks post partum. Our primary objective was to determine the rate of antepartum recurrence of venous thromboembolism. Laboratory studies were performed to identify thrombophilia in 95 women.

Results: Three of the 125 women (2.4 percent) had an antepartum recurrence of venous thromboembolism (95 percent confidence interval, 0.2 to 6.9 percent). There were no recurrences in the 44 women who had no evidence of thrombophilia and who also had a previous episode of thrombosis that was associated with a temporary risk factor. Among the 51 women with abnormal laboratory results or a previous episode of idiopathic thrombosis, or both, 3 (5.9 percent) had an antepartum recurrence of venous thromboembolism (95 percent confidence interval, 1.2 to 16.2 percent).

Conclusions: The risk of recurrent antepartum venous thromboembolism in women with a history of venous thromboembolism is low, and therefore routine antepartum prophylaxis with heparin is not warranted.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Blood Proteins / analysis
  • Female
  • Heparin / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Pregnancy / blood
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / prevention & control*
  • Prenatal Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Embolism / prevention & control
  • Risk Factors
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Thromboembolism / epidemiology
  • Thromboembolism / prevention & control*
  • Venous Thrombosis / prevention & control


  • Anticoagulants
  • Blood Proteins
  • Heparin