Written by Lisa Allen | Edited by Dr Mark Kapnoudhis
Most women are aware of the way their bodies will change during pregnancy but not many are aware that varicose veins can effect as many as 40% of pregnant women. These unsightly veins are bad enough on the legs but how do they occur during pregnancy and how can they be treated?
By knowing more about varicose veins during this delicate phase in a woman’s life, you’ll know what to expect and how to handle it.
The good news is that varicose veins that develop during pregnancy tend to go away after giving birth but the fact that they appear at all can be distressing to any mother-to-be. There are three common reasons why these veins appear.
- The first is family history. If your family members are prone to developing veins in general, your odds of getting them during pregnancy will increase.
- The second cause is due to the hormonal changes that happen within a woman’s body as it prepares for carrying a baby. When the levels of the hormone progesterone are high, this results in the blood vessels relaxing, which can cause the two halves of the veins to separate slightly in order to avoid blocking the back flow of blood.
- The final reason for varicose veins during pregnancy is due to the uterus becoming enlarged. When this happens, the uterus presses against the major veins in the pelvic area, leading to increased pressure in the legs.
For some women, the veins go away completely after delivery. However, if you had varicose veins prior to becoming pregnant, your veins may get better or get worse. In these cases, it helps to seek out treatment.
In order to prevent or minimize the appearance of varicose veins on your legs or inner thighs, try daily exercise. You can do this while pregnant under the supervision of your doctor or you can do it after you’ve given birth (it should be noted that even pregnant mothers should do some form of daily exercise for health reasons and to promote an easier delivery).
Another helpful way to try and prevent the onset of varicose veins during pregnancy is to maintain the recommended weight range during each stage of pregnancy.
During and after your pregnancy, try to elevate your legs and feet when you are not active. While at work, use a stool or box to prop your legs and feet up, as well as when you are at home.
To keep your legs elevated when in bed, use a pillow and try to avoid crossing your legs and ankles while sitting, since this can increase the pressure on the veins. If it can be helped, avoid standing or sitting for long periods – or at least take breaks in between to move around.
While pregnant, get used to sleeping on your left side as well as using a pillow to prop your feet up. By lying on your left side, you are relieving the veins of the weight of the uterus on the right side, which is where the inferior vena cava is located. This effectively decreases the pressure on your veins, legs and feet.
You can also turn to special support hose, which are prescription strength. You can purchase these types of stockings from pharmacies and medical supply stores. This type of hosiery is twice as thick an normal pantyhose and fit tightly at the ankle and get looser as they go up, making it easier for blood flow. When wearing support hose, your legs will be relieved of swelling and your existing varicose veins won’t get worse.