Pregnancy and varicose veins. What’s happening to my legs?
Pregnancy is a special time in a woman’s life. It’s a time most women will remember as they undergo bodily changes and morph into a mother. As a woman goes through the ten months of pregnancy, a lot of bodily changes can happen. Some changes are expected and exciting, such as the kick of a developing baby, and unfortunately, some changes are surprising and unwelcome. The aches and pains of stretching ligaments, constipation, and sleepless uncomfortable nights are a few. For those who are unfortunate to experience large, protruding painful varicose veins, an explanation of why it happens and what to expect would be most beneficial.
During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes changes that include an increased amount of circulating blood volume, hormonal changes such as an increase in progesterone which allows veins to dilate or enlarge in size and the increasing size of the uterus as the baby grows adding more pressure on the pelvic veins which is transmitted as an increased pressure in the leg veins. All these factors play a role in the appearance of varicose veins in the legs and at times around the groin, vulva and labial region. Varicose veins during pregnancy can be painless, cause some discomfort or become painful and may worsen with the progression of pregnancy leading up to the birth.
The good news is that most varicose veins that appear during pregnancy resolve after birth. In some cases, varicose veins may persist up to 6-12 months postpartum. The take home message is to be patient. As your body returns back to baseline with a decrease in uterine size & normalizing blood volume, veins may shrink back to pre pregnancy states.
Improving comfort level during pregnancy is important as well as taking measures to decrease the likelihood of worsening symptomatic varicose veins.
A few habits you may want to consider adopting during pregnancy are:
• Elevate your legs above heart level when possible for short periods of time.
• Maintain a healthy weight gain during pregnancy.
• Wear supportive compression stockings such as maternity pantyhose or knee highs after the second trimester.
• In case of uncomfortable vulvar or labial varicose veins, local support is available from specialty stores.
• Keep adequately hydrated.
• Avoid constipation especially if vulvar varicosities are present.
Women who experience residual symptomatic varicose veins after 6-12 months postpartum or worsening of varicose veins with each subsequent pregnancy may consider consulting a vascular surgeon for workup of varicose veins and establishing a definitive treatment plan. Modern non-surgical techniques and procedures are available which require no downtime.
OC VeinCare is currently offering a free vein screening for individuals with varicose veins or spider veins! Click here to schedule your free screening today, or call (949) 364-0080 to learn more!
Maraya Altuwaijri, MD, FACS, RPVI