ATLANTA - Eleven years later, Dorothy Christians still remembers the pain.
"It was scary," the Atlanta mother of three says.
Pregnant with her first son, she was just entering her third trimester, when her upper left leg and groin began to throb.
"It was one of the worst pains I've ever felt," Christians says. "I mean, I couldn't walk. To go to the bathroom, my husband would have to carry me."
Christians ended up in the ER, where she was hospitalized with deep-vein thrombosis, or DVT, a blood clot in her groin.
"It was more serious than I had originally thought," she says. "I was a little freaked out by all the attention the doctors were giving me."
But the doctor who eventually delivered Christian's son, North Atlanta OB-GYN Dr. Meera Garcia, knows blood clots can be risky in pregnant women. Garcia says, if they break apart, travel up to the lungs, and become lodged in an artery, clots can kill. They call that a pulmonary embolism, or PE.
"With pulmonary embolism, if it is not identified and treated, you can shoot off more and more blood clots from wherever the clots are deep in your veins, to the point your lungs cannot exchange oxygen anymore," Dr. Garcia says. "And you will, it will lead to death."
Some of the warning signs of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain and a racing or irregular heartbeat.
For Christians, the ordeal was frightening.
"They just said this was serious, it could kill the baby, and we need to watch you very closely until this pregnancy is over.
She learned how to give herself daily injections of a blood thinner to prevent clotting.
"I would just mentally prepare myself, take a deep breath and put the shot in," Christians says. "But it was tough. It was tough."
Expectant mothers who develop clots continue on the blood thinners for a few weeks after their pregnancy, and Christians took them during her subsequent two pregnancies.
"We go ahead and treat the patient throughout the pregnancy and postpartum for about 6 weeks because the highest chance of a blood clot is in the 6 weeks after delivery," Dr. Garcia says.
Christians has safely given birth to three sons. Her message to pregnant women: pay attention to your body.
"I do think, that deep down when you know something is wrong," Christians says. "It's that instinct. You need to listen to your body."