Varicose veins are one of the most common pregnancy complications. They can make your legs feel heavy, sore, and tired. Pregnant women should be aware of these 5 things before getting pregnant to help avoid varicose veins during pregnancy!
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves in the veins. When the valves do not work correctly, blood collects in your legs and pressure builds up. The veins become weak, large, and twisted. Many women first develop varicose veins during pregnancy. This can lead to swelling and discomfort in the legs or feet, which is another common pregnancy ailment.
Varicose veins are common in pregnancy. During pregnancy, your blood volume increases. Pressure builds up in the veins as the uterus begins to grow. Veins are passageways for blood to be carried from your extremities to your heart. If these valves are unable to work properly, they become weak, which causes blood to flow backward. This results in swelling and engorgement of the veins.
Changes in your hormonal levels during pregnancy can also play a role in developing varicose veins. Veins are affected by hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and relaxin. When these hormones are increased during pregnancy, they affect the valves in your veins causing them to weaken.
Did You Know:
1) Varicose veins usually start in the second trimester and get worse as you near delivery. This is because the increased pressure of the uterus on the pelvic veins disrupts blood flow to the leg veins in pregnant women. Symptoms often worsen during the third trimester of pregnancy because your uterus puts so much pressure on an artery that leads to one leg, restricting blood flow.
2) You can’t prevent or treat them with medicine but they may go away after delivery. If you already have varicose veins, pregnancy may make them worse and they are more likely to become painful.
3) You are more likely to get varicose veins during your pregnancy if your mother did. If you have a family history of varicose vein problems it is best to consult a doctor, even before you become pregnant.
4) Pregnancy hormones can relax the valves that help blood flow back up from your leg and into your heart, which means blood may pool up instead. The vein walls become weakened and don’t have the needed pressure to move blood out of your legs.
5) Varicose veins can happen on any area of the leg, but it’s most common in the inner thigh and calf muscles because standing and walking puts the most pressure on these areas.
Can I prevent varicose veins in pregnancy?
Together, weight gain and the increased blood volume adds additional pressure on the veins. Since you can’t control weight gain due to pregnancy, there are a few steps you can take to minimize their impact on your veins.
Some preventative measures include:
- Avoid prolonged standing and sitting
- Sleep on your left side to take strain off the interior vena cava vein
- Keep yours legs elevated
- Maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine to improve your blood circulation
- Don’t wear high heels if possible-wear flats instead
- Stay off your feet for longer periods when possible: take more frequent breaks at work or while doing housework
- Wear compression stockings to help move blood out of the legs and back to the heart
Should I be concerned about developing varicose veins?
About 28 percent of women will develop varicose veins during their pregnancy. Varicose veins may itch or hurt, but are generally harmless in the short term. A small number of women are more at risk for developing blood clots in their veins. If the skin over your varicose veins begins to cause you pain, become discolored, or prone to bleeding, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
What are the symptoms of varicose veins?
The most common symptom is aching, throbbing, or a heavy feeling in the legs. Other signs include swelling and discoloration on your skin. Women with varicose veins may also have difficulty wearing tight clothing. Varicose veins usually become visible during pregnancy because pregnant women need to
What is the treatment of varicose veins after pregnancy?
Varicose veins tend to improve typically 6 to 12 weeks after you give birth. The key is to stay active. Varicose veins may respond to simple lifestyle changes in how your move and hold your body. Refresh your body with a few stretches or small exercise movements to keep things moving with your circulatory system. Learn how to sit in a healthy way without crossing your legs and remembering to keep your legs elevated while nursing or resting. You can also invest in compression garments. Compression garments provide support for your legs by helping your blood travel back toward the heart instead of remaining in your legs. Many veins can be minimized or eliminated using treatment methods.
Most women with varicose veins from pregnancy don’t need treatment because they’ll go away on their own.
If varicose veins persist or worsen, your healthcare provider might recommend one of the following treatments:
- Prescription grade compression stockings (to help with swelling and discomfort)
- Sclerotherapy (“shot”) therapy to shrink varicose vein tissue
- Surgery to remove varicose veins from an area that can’t be reached by other methods.
If you do decide on surgery for varicose vein removal, it’s important to know what type of procedure your doctor intends to use before proceeding.
Endovenous ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency waves to treat varicose veins. It’s also called endovenous laser therapy or just “endovenous.” The doctor makes one small incision and inserts the probe, which delivers heat energy inside the vein to seal off blood flow. Your leg will be bandaged for about five days after surgery, and you’ll need to wear compression stockings until your stitches are removed (about three weeks).
Ambulatory phlebectomy is performed with a local anesthetic so you will feel no pain. This process involves making tiny cuts near varicosed veins so they can be removed in pieces through those openings. Afterward, compression stockings should be worn for one week to reduce swelling.
If you developed varicose veins during pregnancy that haven’t disappeared, our vein specialists are here to help! Give The Vein Centre a call today at (615) 269-9007!