During your first pregnancy or your partner’s first pregnancy, there are a million things to remember. The body changes in remarkable ways over this nine month period – and this includes the veins.
Varicose veins are a common problem among pregnant women. Whether they’ve had vein problems before or this is the first occurrence, those bulging veins can be frustrating and uncomfortable.
If you’re entering a pregnancy, learn more about the connection to varicose veins so that you can stay vigilant.
Why Do Varicose Veins Develop During Pregnancy?
There are a few theories as to why there is a link between pregnancy and varicose veins:
- Added pressure – The uterus expands throughout pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby. This can place pressure on the pelvic veins and the inferior vena cava. This is the vein that carries blood from the legs and lower extremities to the heart. The end result can be obstructed blood flow.
- Hormonal changes – Fluctuating hormones may lead to blood pooling in the legs. Hormones can be a factor in the formation of varicose veins for non-pregnant individuals as well.
- Heredity – If your family members have problems with varicose veins, then you may be more likely to experience the same. You can inherit a predisposition for varicose veins from either of your parents or from your grandparents.
There are also complicating factors that can increase your risk of developing vein conditions during pregnancy. Women with certain injuries, who have been pregnant before, or who are overweight are at a heightened risk.
The more risk factors you possess, the more likely it is that you will experience varicose veins during your pregnancy.
Preventing Varicose Veins Before, During and After Pregnancy
All that said, there is not a certainty that you will develop varicose veins while pregnant. It’s impossible to know for sure whether they will be a problem. The best course of action is to engage in preventive measures that will help you avoid varicose veins. These measures will help you reduce your risk of developing bulging veins or reducing the number of varicose veins you develop.
Overall, you want to focus on improving circulation and toning the muscles in your legs. Try out these tips either while planning for a pregnancy or when already pregnant:
- Exercise – Engage in regular exercises that will strengthen your legs and tone leg muscles. Exercising helps keep your blood moving properly through your veins and back up to your heart. Ask your doctor about exercises that are recommended during your pregnancy.
- Keep moving – Avoid staying in one position (either standing or sitting) for extended periods of time. Take breaks at work when you either stand up and walk around or sit and take a rest (depending on your usual posture/tasks).
- Avoid crossing your legs – When you’re sitting down, try to avoid crossing your legs for long periods.
- Elevate – Try to elevate your legs when you’re sitting, resting or sleeping. This can also help with swelling in your limbs that can occur during pregnancy.
- Try to slim down – Of course, you will gain weight during pregnancy – this is expected. But if you are overweight at the beginning of your pregnancy, it’s a great time to focus on losing some of that weight for a variety of health reasons. Talk to your doctor about what they recommend.
- Wear the right clothes – Avoid wearing tight clothing, especially on your legs. Your doctor may also recommend compression stockings.
Can Other Vein Conditions Develop During Pregnancy?
Yes. Pregnant women may develop superficial thrombophlebitis, in which a blood clot forms in a vein close to the skin’s surface. They also run the risk of deep vein thrombosis, in which a blood clot forms deeper in the leg’s veins.
Deep vein thrombosis is a serious condition and it should be addressed right away. If you notice swelling, tenderness or redness on your leg, see a doctor immediately.
Should I Treat Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy often resolve on their own. Within a few months up to one year after delivery, the changes that occur in the body during pregnancy have resolved, with clears the varicose veins.
Wearing compression stockings during that period can help you speed along the process.
If your symptoms don’t improve during that year, you should see a vein specialist. Dr. Muasher may recommend any of the following procedures:
- EVLT – In this laser-based procedure, a catheter is inserted into a varicose vein. Laser energy is then sent through the catheter to heat and close the vein. This is minimally invasive and may be combined with microphlebectomy, which removes superficial veins through miniature incisions.
- Sclerotherapy – The longer-standing treatment option for varicose veins, sclerotherapy involves injections of a sclerosant into the problem veins. This substance irritates the vein and causes it to close. Sclerotherapy is typically not recommended during breastfeeding, so it may not be appropriate in the year after pregnancy.
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