Varicose Veins & Pregnancy
Pregnancy is undoubtedly one of the best times of a woman’s life and possibly one of the hardest for her legs. For many women, pregnancy will introduce them to their first bout of varicose veins and or spider veins. A clear connection exists between having a baby and the thick, purple, bulging varicose veins that pop up out of the blue. To understand why women tend to get varicose veins while experiencing the wonders of childbirth, you need to understand more about what they are and how they develop.
What are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are blood vessels engorged with blood. The blood gives them that blue, purple or red color you see under the skin, and they can appear as bulging, rope-like and twisted veins, usually on your legs. They can come with little or no pain, or may be accompanied by legs that feel heavy, achy, and restless. The discomfort may get worse towards the end of the day when you have been on your feet for an extended period of time.
Millions of women suffer from varicose veins due to pregnancy or as a result of venous reflux disease, a common medical condition in the superficial venous system that leads to varicose vein formation and can cause painful symptoms in the legs, such as tired legs, leg swelling, itching, burning, numbness and more. Varicose veins form when vein valves inside the vein wall that transport blood to the heart malfunction and allow blood to pool backward in the veins. Properly functioning vein valves work against the force of gravity to make healthy circulation possible, but factors like genetics, age, weight gain and pressure can cause these valves to not open or close as they should. When this happens, blood leaks backward towards the feet and causes the vein to become engorged. As the deoxygenated blood rests in the area, swelling and inflammation occurs that leaves legs feeling increasingly uncomfortable and potentially looking worse over time.
Treatments such as thermal therapies with radiofrequency (Venefit) and laser (EVLT), VenaSeal and sclerotherapy can effectively address varicose veins and provide relief from painful symptoms. While Northwest Vein & Aesthetic Center does not perform these treatments during pregnancy, you can be seen for a consultation and ultrasound examination to determine the extent of your varicose veins and review your best treatment options post-pregnancy.
If you experience extreme discomfort during pregnancy, medical-grade graduated compression stockings can bring significant relief. Upon evaluation, our vein specialists can recommend the best fit and pressure to help immediately.
Does Pregnancy Cause Varicose Veins?
The body goes through many changes during pregnancy. You gain weight, for example, which puts extra pressure on the veins and causes damage to the valves. There is also extra blood coursing through the veins as the body works to support two lives, instead of just one.
The progesterone hormone increases during pregnancy, too. This relaxes the blood vessels, so the veins become more elastic and the valves gap. The combination of factors escalates around week 29 and varicose veins can begin to develop in the legs, vulva and even around the rectum as hemorrhoids.
The good news is that many of these new veins will improve after delivery. Nonetheless, damage to the veins during pregnancy can result in irreversible changes. Below are some steps you can take to help maintain your leg health during pregnancy.
How to Address Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
The truth is you may not be able to avoid varicose veins completely when you are pregnant, but there are steps you can take to minimize them.
- Put your feet up when you can – This relieves pressure in your legs and veins. Avoid crossing your legs at the ankles when they are elevated. Instead, flex and wiggle your feet to improve the blood flow.
- Stay active –Ask your doctor what exercise is safe for you. For most women, taking one or two walks a day is appropriate. You can look into other forms of exercise, too, such as yoga classes designed for pregnant women. The key is to stay as active as possible with your doctor’s permission.
- Dress smart – Keep your clothes loose and comfortable. Make sure nothing binds or chafes. Be smart about your footwear, too. Avoid tight fitting shoes and high heels that put additional strain on your legs.
- Consider investing in support hose– Provide your legs with an extra boost of support from medical-grade graduated compression stockings. Believe it or not, they keep legs cool (even in the summer), but more importantly, they counteract the pressure put on your legs as the baby grows and your belly expands. Graduated compression acts like a pump to keep blood flow moving in the right direction. Upon consultation, Northwest Vein & Aesthetic Center can recommend the right pressure, size and length to bring you the utmost comfort during your pregnancy.
Venous disease is a serious issue and should be evaluated by a vascular expert. If you experience leg discomfort or the formation of new varicose veins or spider veins, contact us to learn more or schedule a consultation.