What Is Heparin?

My doctor said I should take heparin. How can it help?
ByMyra Wick, MD
OB-GYN
Updated
Mar 2017
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Heparin is an anticoagulant. That’s a medication that’s designed to slow the blood’s clotting time. Normally, when you get a cut, your blood clots in a matter of seconds. That process takes longer for someone who’s on an anticoagulant.

If you have a clotting condition, like  thrombophlebitis or  deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or a family history of clotting, your doc may prescribe heparin.

Heparin needs to be injected, so if you’re prescribed it, your doctor or nurse will teach you how to give yourself the shots. Sounds scary we know, but it’s actually pretty easy — since the needle is really thin and short, it’s more like pricking your finger than getting a shot.

Note that since your blood will be thinner, you might be more prone to bruising while you’re taking heparin. The good news is that effects of heparin wear off quickly, so even if you need surgery (such as a c-section) at the end of your pregnancy, your doc will be able to control your bleeding so it doesn’t cause complications for you.
Many women who use heparin during pregnancy can stop using it after baby’s born — but since that’s decided case-by-case, you’ll need to ask your doc what’s best for you.

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