Women who have never had varicose veins often get them when they are pregnant. They’re just one of the many changes that can occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy. Varicose veins are even more likely to occur in a second or third pregnancy if a woman is carrying more than one child. OBGYNs often hear the same questions about why they are happening, and how to minimize the discomfort.

Pregnancy, Blood and Blood Flow

During pregnancy, the growing uterus places pressure on the inferior vena cava, the large vein that carries blood from the legs and feet to the heart. This makes it even harder for blood to return to the heart and lungs for re-oxygenation. Both the amount of blood in a pregnant woman’s body, and the amount of progesterone, increase. Progesterone is the hormone that causes ligaments to loosen. It also causes other tissues to relax, including the walls of blood vessels. As the veins stretch, the one-way valves in the veins are pulled apart, allowing blood to flow backward, build pressure, extend veins, and cause the varicosities. This same process may also happen in the rectum (as hemorrhoids) and the genitals, as a vulvar varicosity.pregnancy and varicose veins

Should Pregnancy-Related Varicose Veins Be Cause for Concern?

While they may be uncomfortable or even painful, pregnancy-related varicose veins are usually not a serious medical concern. However, in some cases, they may indicate an underlying condition requiring immediate attention. That’s why it’s essential to tell your doctor if you notice additional signs that could indicate a potentially dangerous clot. These symptoms mean you must go to a hospital immediately:

  • Swelling in one or both legs
  • A change in color in the area around a varicose vein
  • Sores around the vein
  • Sudden, painful swelling in your ankle or leg
  • Pain in your leg or ankle when you flex your foot or stand up

Some of these symptoms could be an indication that you have developed a deep venous thrombosis. A DVT is a potentially fatal. Pregnant women who have had blood clots in the past, or who are confined to bed rest, are more susceptible to a DVT, and must be watch for the symptoms.

How Can You Minimize Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?

Assuming that you have normal, pregnancy-related varicose veins, there are action steps you can take to help minimize them, and the discomfort that goes with them:

  • Elevate your feet and keep your legs and ankles uncrossed while sitting.
  • If you have to sit or stand for extended periods, take breaks and walk around.
  • Get daily, low-impact exercise, as approved by your doctor.
  • Sleep on your left side to avoid placing additional pressure on the inferior vena cava on the right. Place a pillow behind your back to help you stay in that position. Place another pillow under your feet to keep them elevated.
  • Don’t gain any more weight than is recommended during your pregnancy.

Should You Have Your Varicose Veins Removed After the Baby Is Born?

In most cases, varicose veins improve or go away within a few months after the baby is born. However, if they don’t, you may want to have them treated. At VeinInnovations, we perform vein treatments on women after they have waited a safe amount of time after giving birth.

Call or contact us online to schedule an appointment with one of our vein specialists. We can help you determine the most effective method of caring for you and your veins, and help prevent them from recurring or worsening during your next pregnancy.