Pregnancy’s Impact on Varicose Veins
Pregnancy increases hormone levels and blood volume, which causes veins to enlarge.
Varicose veins in pregnant women usually develop during the first trimester (long before the uterus has enlarged significantly) indicating the major role of hormone changes in the development of varicose veins. In the second and third trimesters, the enlarging uterus also causes increasing pressure on the surrounding veins. Successive pregnancies greatly increase the risk of developing abnormal veins. Although varicose veins during pregnancy often improve within a few weeks after delivery, abnormal veins beyond about three months are unlikely to resolve.
Why do Varicose Veins Occur During Pregnancy?
Varicose veins often occur when your uterus puts pressure on the inferior vena cava, which is the large vein that takes blood back to your heart from the legs and feet. Varicose veins generally appear in the legs, rectum, and genital area, and sometimes they’re uncomfortable, itchy, or painful.
Increased blood volume during pregnancy, as well as spikes in certain hormones also contribute to the development of varicose veins during pregnancy. Varicose veins may be hereditary, which means you probably can’t prevent them. However, they’re usually harmless.
Risk Factors of Developing Varicose Veins While Pregnant
In addition to being pregnant and developing varicose veins, other factors may speed up the development of this disease and make the veins worse, including prolonged standing or sitting, obesity, age, and physical trauma.
Although many people have heard of varicose veins, it is important to know that there is more to be concerned with than just the unsightliness of varicose veins. The is a possibility of varicose veins developing into a serious medical problem, which can compromise the skin’s nutrition and could lead to swelling, eczema, inflammation, and even ulceration of the lower leg. Varicose vein treatments are usually covered by insurance.
How to Prevent Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
Even if varicose veins are a part of your pregnancy, you can avoid making them worse and reduce some of the discomforts that comes with them. A few helpful tips include:
- Avoid crossing your legs while sitting down.
- Take breaks and get up and move around if you’re sitting or standing in one place for too long.
- Engage in low-impact exercise daily as long as your doctor approves it.
- Try wearing maternity support hose. They’re special pantyhose that offer compression for your leg muscles, which helps push blood back up towards your heart. They’re different from your regular pantyhose and apply gradual pressure to different areas of the leg to encourage blood flow.
- Avoid wearing knee highs or tight socks that can squeeze one area of the legs and cut off your circulation.
- Try sleeping on your left side. This helps reduce the pressure on the inferior vena cava, which is located on your right side.
- Elevate your legs for a bit at the end of your day.
- Limit time spent walking or standing.
Most vein practitioners do not have the background or training to treat vein problems that occur above the legs. Because of their specialized training interventional radiologists like Dr. Pittman are able to treat a number of lifestyle-limiting vein diseases that occur in the pelvis and abdomen such as Pelvic Congestion Syndrome (PCS), labial varicose veins often related to pregnancy, buttock varicose veins, and groin varicose veins that originate above the legs and usually cannot be detected or diagnosed with only an ultrasound exam of the legs.
Discover our top tips to help reduce the discomfort that comes with varicose veins during pregnancy.