Varicose Veins in Pregnancy: Why They Appear and What to Do

Varicose veins can come up at any time, but there are a number of conditions that make them more likely to appear. Pregnancy is one time of your life when varicose veins are increasingly likely, and you may simply dislike the appearance or actually suffer pain from them. There are a few things you can do to try to prevent them from becoming worse, and there are treatment options if prevention doesn’t work.

What Causes Varicose Veins to Appear in Pregnancy?

Varicose veins are parts of the vein that appear blue, and they are swollen and bulging under the skin. When we stand up, gravity causes blood to be drawn towards our feet, and our veins have small valves inside them which stop the blood flowing down. When these valves get weak, the blood flow does not work as well, and the veins can swell from the pressure put on them.

There are three main reasons why varicose veins are more likely to occur during pregnancy, or why pregnancy may worsen your existing varicose veins.

First, the uterus grows to accommodate the baby during pregnancy, which puts increasing pressure on the veins that run through the pelvis and down into the legs. This pressure restricts the blood flow to the veins, which causes the valves to become weaker.

Another reason behind the increased risk is that hormones during pregnancy relax the tendons and ligaments in the body. This is to allow the pelvis to shift and widen to allow the baby to move down and through the birth canal. These hormonal changes relax the muscle walls which surround the veins, and the veins can grow bigger and dilate due to the increased space around them.

Finally, the body’s blood volume increases drastically during pregnancy, which also increases the pressure on the veins. All of these factors together allow the veins to expand and the valves to weaken, which increases your risk of developing varicose veins.

Can Varicose Veins Be Prevented?

In many cases, varicose veins will develop regardless of what you do, as there is a genetic component in your likelihood of developing them. There are some steps that you can take to reduce your risk, however. First, staying off your feet for portions of the day is important for reducing the pressure on your veins and the valves inside them. Take regular breaks and put your feet up. In addition, make sure you do get some exercise during the day, to allow the blood to flow more freely through your legs with the increased activity. Make sure that you don’t gain too much weight during your pregnancy, as this can also elevate your risk of developing varicose veins. If veins start to develop, you can try wearing support socks or hose, and talk to your doctor about treatments that could help.

Before you can get treatment, you’ll need to be aware of the symptoms so that you can monitor the development of the varicose veins. First, you will see blueish veins starting to bulge. Next, you may feel a slight aching feeling in your legs, particularly after a long day of activity. If you see an eczema-like rash developing around the varicose vein, it may be what is called “venous eczema”. If you see this rash, make sure you head to your doctor to talk about treatment options.

What Treatments Are Available?

There are several different treatments that you can try to alleviate varicose veins if they do not resolve after your baby is born. Most of the modern treatments are now “minimally invasive” and take place only using local anesthetics. All treatments involve closing the leaky vein, either with heat, glue, or other chemicals which irritate the vein and cause it to seal off around the leaking area.

If you are experiencing varicose vein problems during pregnancy, wait until the pregnancy is finished to see if the pain alleviates. Take action during your pregnancy if the pain becomes severe or if the pregnancy has made an existing problem worse.

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