A Guide To Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

By:    Published: September 12, 2012

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There are a whole host of unpleasant pregnancy symptoms that are seldom spoken of, and varicose veins fall into that category. While they can be unsightly, they usually aren't anything to worry about. There are also some things that can be done to help prevent them, although, unfortunately, some people are just predestined to have them.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are blood vessels that bulge close to the skin, often appearing as blue, squiggly lines. They typically occur in the legs, though they can occur anywhere. In fact, the hemorrhoids that are often associated with pregnancy are nothing more than varicose veins in and around the rectum. The skin around the varicose vein my itch, throb or ache and it may be worse toward the end of the day, though each woman that experiences them may experience them differently.

Why Do They Occur In Pregnancy?

Varicose veins occur during pregnancy because of a confluence of factors. The first is increased blood volume. During pregnancy a woman will have up to 50 percent more blood than when she is not pregnant. This extra blood supplies the baby's needs for oxygen and nutrients while en utero. This extra volume is eventually lost after birth.

The other factor is the weight of the baby. As the pregnancy progresses, the weight of the baby can put pressure on the blood vessels that supply the lower body, making it difficult for the blood to circulate back from the lower extremities to the rest of the body. This increased pressure is worse for those who spend a lot of time on their feet. Veins already have a tough job since they are the blood vessels that return the blood to the heart after it has circulated to the extremities.

So pressure combined with extra blood is the primary cause of varicose veins during pregnancy, but this doesn't mean that every pregnant woman will get them. There are some women who are genetically predisposed to developing varicose veins, and these women will often find that varicose veins will develop or worsen as they age regardless of whether or not they appeared during pregnancy. Though they may get worse with each successive pregnancy, the good news is that varicose veins that are caused by pregnancy tend to resolve themselves after the baby is born. Also keep in mind that hormones also play a small role in the development of varicose veins during pregnancy.

Treatment

Treatment for varicose veins during pregnancy is typically non invasive. Lifestyle changes are usually all that is needed to treat them, or keep them from worsening, and usually varicose veins resolve themselves after the pregnancy is over.

If varicose veins become bothersome, there are other surgical treatment options available, but these procedures should not be done until after the baby is born because surgery poses too great a risk to the unborn baby in most cases.

Prevention

When it comes to varicose veins, it is often easier to prevent them than treat them, though it may not always be possible to prevent them. The following tips can help pregnant women reduce the swelling in the legs and feet and thereby reduce the strain on the blood vessels in the lower body.

  • Be careful about weight gain during the pregnancy.
  • Walk as much as possible. This will help improve circulation back to the heart from the lower body.
  • Avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. Both positions can trap blood in the legs and make varicose veins worse.
  • If sitting is necessary, such as while working, prop feet up so that the back of the legs don't rest on the edge of the chair. This can make it difficult for the veins in the legs to return blood back to the heart.
  • Spend as much time as possible with feet elevated. This will also help to return the blood from the legs to the heart and help take the strain off of blood vessels.
  • Wear support stockings. This can help keep blood from pooling in the legs.
  • Be sure to get enough vitamin C. This helps keeps blood vessels elastic and healthy.

Are Varicose Veins A Serious Issue?

Varicose veins are rarely ever serious. However sometimes they can result in blood clots under the skin or an infection in the skin surrounding the clot. If either of these things happen, it's important to call the doctor right away. These clots are not fatal, but the infection will need to be treated by antibiotics.

It's important not to confuse the superficial clots associated with varicose veins with a more serious condition called deep vein thrombosis. This is the formation of a blood clot in the deep veins of the legs. These clots can travel to the heart or brain and cause serious problems or even death. This condition may not have any symptoms and is relatively rare.

Varicose veins during pregnancy can be unsightly and uncomfortable, but like most of the other unpleasant symptoms associated with pregnancy, they are nothing to really worry about and will likely disappear on their own once the little bundle of joy arrives.

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