Varicose veins can happen to anyone, but they are especially common in pregnant women. These raised, swollen blood vessels bulge near the surface of the skin and most commonly occur in your legs, but may also appear elsewhere on your lower body, even on your rectum and vulva. For many pregnant women, these unsightly veins are uncomfortable or make them feel self-conscious, but you don’t have to live with them forever. In this blog, we will go over the critical information you need to know about pregnancy and varicose veins.
Why Do Pregnant Women Get Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins occur because blood begins to pool in the veins as the blood struggles to defy gravity and return back to the heart. In pregnant women, as the uterus grows in size with the baby, it puts more pressure on the inferior vena cava, a long vein that runs along the right side of your body. This in turn puts more pressure on the veins in your legs. Additionally, when you are pregnant, there is a higher volume of blood in your body. On top of this, your progesterone levels are higher, which causes the walls of your blood vessels to relax. This is why varicose veins are a common problem during pregnancy. Many women develop varicose veins for the first time when they are pregnant, or if they already have varicose veins, the problem worsens as their pregnancy progresses.
Some women are more likely to develop varicose veins during pregnancy than others. If a member of your family has varicose veins, you are more likely to get them. Additionally, if you have them, they usually get worse after every pregnancy and as you age. You are also more likely to develop varicose veins if you are overweight or obese, are carrying twins or multiples, or regularly stand for long periods of time.
If you are pregnant and are concerned about developing varicose veins, there are several ways you may be able to prevent them. Of course, there is only so much you can do about some of the causes of varicose veins, but if you take certain steps, you may be able to at least minimize their impact.
Sleep on Your Left
As stated above, varicose veins during pregnancy are common because the uterus presses against the inferior vena cava, which is on the right side of your body. You can take some pressure of this vein by sleeping on your left side, making it easier for the blood to flow.
One of the best ways you can reduce your chances of getting varicose veins while you are pregnant is to exercise every day. By exercising, you improve the circulation in your legs, making it easier for the blood to return to your heart and less likely to pool in your veins. Incorporate thirty minutes of moderate exercise into your daily routine.
You can also help your circulation by elevating your legs. Every three hours, make a point to sit down and elevate your legs above your heart. When standing, alternate on which leg you put your weight, and try not to cross your legs.
Watch Your Weight
Excess weight puts more pressure on your veins, so try not to put on too much extra weight during your pregnancy. It is normal and often healthy to gain some weight while pregnant, but be careful. Speak with your physician about how much weight you should gain.
Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are a tool that we often use at our vein clinic to improve blood flow. There are special support hose designed specifically for pregnant women. If you need compression stockings, we can provide you with ones fitted specifically to you.
Constipation is common during pregnancy, but it can aggravate varicose veins, so take steps to prevent it. Drink a lot of water, eat high-fiber foods, and avoid consuming too much salt. If you need to take a stool softener for relief, they are safe to use during pregnancy, but talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
At our vein clinic in Mentor, OH, we perform several procedures to treat varicose veins, including sclerotherapy and endovenous laser ablation. However, vein surgery is not recommended for pregnant women. In general, varicose veins will improve a few months after birth because the uterus is no longer pressing against the inferior vena cava. However, if you still experience varicose veins three or four months after you have had your baby, you may consider receiving a vein treatment from Center for Advanced Vein Care in Mentor. If you have recently given birth and you are concerned about your varicose veins, come in for a consultation. Our specialist will work with you to determine the best treatment method for your varicose veins. Contact us today to learn more!