Written By: Emma Squillace
Pregnancy can be the most incredible time, as your body creates a life, day by day for 9 months. Through all the beautiful moments of pregnancy, however, there are also side effects that most women have to deal with. One common side effect of pregnancy is varicose veins. Patients often tell us that their varicose veins started, or got notably worse, during pregnancy. Unfortunately, women are more prone to varicose veins anyway, and pregnancy makes this condition even more likely. Let’s look at the connection between pregnancy and these visible, painful veins, as well as a few ways to improve your chances of lessening the severity of this condition.
What is a varicose vein?
A varicose vein is a damaged vein that becomes twisted, bulging, and often painful. The valves in the vein do not allow blood to flow correctly, and blood pools causing the tell-tale symptoms. Varicose veins are most often found in the legs, especially in relation to pregnancy.
Why does pregnancy lead to varicose veins?
One primary reason that women seem to get varicose veins often during pregnancy is that when you are carrying a baby, the volume of your blood increases substantially. It’s estimated that a pregnant woman will increase her blood volume by almost 50%! That’s a significant amount of increased pressure on your blood vessels, which in turn increases the chance of veins weakening and becoming varicose.
Pressure on your legs
In addition to your increased blood flow, pregnancy also means your uterus will grow many times in size. This larger uterus & baby inside it add way more pressure to your vena cava – the primary veins that bring blood to your legs. This pressure also makes varicose veins more likely.
The good news
Although pregnancy substantially increases your risk of varicose veins, after you deliver, the primary causes of these veins will be relieved. Many women find that their varicose veins improve somewhat after they have delivered their baby. However, it is important to have realistic expectations: once a vein becomes varicose, it cannot return to normal. The damage to that vein is permanent and irreversible.
Preventing varicose veins during pregnancy
A natural question is “what can I do to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy?” The answer is that there are several steps you can take to lessen your chances of developing these uncomfortable veins, but nothing you can do to truly prevent them.
Important steps in lowering your risk of varicose veins include:
- Try to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy, without going above your doctor’s recommendations
- Elevate your feet above your heart when you have the chance. Lying on a couch with several pillows under your ankles can help alleviate pressure.
- Avoid very tight clothing
- Avoid high heels
- Try not to stand or sit for too long without a break. If you sit a lot during the day, take a few minutes every hour to walk and get your blood flowing. If you stand a lot during the day, take breaks as often as possible.
Once you get varicose veins, they cannot go away on their own. The only way to get rid of them and alleviate symptoms like itching, aching, and heaviness is through treatments like laser vein removal or sclerotherapy. We do not recommend varicose vein treatment during pregnancy, but if you find that after delivery you have painful or unsightly veins, one of our minimally invasive treatments may be a great option for you. If you would like to ask any questions about vein issues, please reach out to our expert vein team at (855) 690-0565.