Pregnancy can cause a lot of changes in your body. From swollen and tender breasts, to growing, stretching skin over your belly, you may begin to feel like you’re trapped in someone else’s body. Then one day, you look down and wham! So many additional veins on your legs! What is that about? Varicose veins in pregnancy can be a natural part of the changes that a growing baby can cause in your body. Here’s everything you need to know about them.
What You Need to Know About Your Varicose Veins [Brief Guide]
What causes varicose veins in pregnancy?
During pregnancy, your blood volume increases, while the rate at which blood flows from your legs to your pelvis decreases. This puts pressure on the veins, which can cause the appearance of “extra” veins on your legs called varicose veins. These are enlarged veins that commonly occur in the legs, although during pregnancy they can also appear on the buttocks and vaginal area.
Hormonal changes can also lead to varicose veins. This is because increased progestin levels can dilate or open your veins. In addition, during pregnancy your growing uterus puts pressure on the inferior vena cava (the vein that carries blood from the legs and feet to the heart), further contributing to varicose veins.
Are varicose veins bad? Should I be worried?
No, not really. Varicose veins are generally harmless, although they may become itchy and uncomfortable. In extreme cases, they can also be painful. Be sure to contact your doctor if the veins become swollen, warm, tender, or red, if they bleed, if you have a rash on your leg or ankle, or if the skin on leg changes color or thickens.
How do I get rid of them?
Most doctors do not recommend varicose vein surgery on pregnant women because they typically diminish naturally within three months to a year after giving birth. If they are not causing you any discomfort, rest assured they will likely go away on their own.
However, a word of caution: don’t take any medication that isn’t prescribed by your OB/GYN or “holistic” extracts such as horse chestnut seed extract (with the poisonous esculin removed) to treat varicose veins. Some people recommend consuming this extract as a treatment, but eating the raw bark, flower, seed, or leaf of this plant is poisonous and can cause death. The safety of using horse chestnut extract with the esculin removed during pregnancy remains unknown. It’s much better to wait for treatment until after you’ve given birth (if you end up needing any treatment at all).
Can I prevent varicose veins in pregnancy?
Yes, and no. There are some preventative measures you can take to help possibly avoid getting varicose veins and to reduce the appearance of existing ones. However, it should be noted varicose veins tend to be hereditary and you can’t necessarily prevent all circulatory changes during pregnancy.
- Avoid sitting or standing in the same position for long periods of time. Make sure to take breaks to change your position.
- Avoid wearing high heels. It is better to wear lower-heel or flat shoes as this works your calf muscles, fostering healthy circulation.
- Get regular exercise. Talk with your doctor to confirm if it is safe for you to exercise during pregnancy.
- Wear maternity support hosiery. These put pressure on the legs, stimulating blood flow up the leg towards the heart. However, avoid wearing tight hose that cut off circulation.
- Avoid crossing your legs while sitting.
- Elevate your legs periodically to improve circulation.
- Sleep on your left side. This will help relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava.
- Reduce sodium intake to minimize swelling of the veins.
- Drink plenty of water and eat enough fiber to prevent constipation.
Have you *finally* gotten your BFP? Are you looking for an OBGYN and live in the San Tan Valley? Let us join you on your pregnancy journey and help you find a path to motherhood that works for you. Book an appointment today!