Varicose Veins & Pregnancy

Closeup of pregnant woman having swollen legPregnancy is an exciting time, as a fetus grows and develops. Unfortunately, some unwanted symptoms can also tag along with this growth, including varicose veins. In fact, up to half of women experience them at some point during pregnancy.

The cause of varicose veins during pregnancy is two-fold. The increased volume of blood (up to 20% more) pulsing through an expectant mother’s body combined with the ever-expanding weight of the fetus leads to greater pressure on the veins of the lower extremities during pregnancy. Additionally, increases in progesterone and hormones that relax the ligaments in the pelvis and smooth muscle cells in the vein walls add in even more hinderances to the venous system.

Although varicose and spider veins that arise during pregnancy rarely pose serious risks to physical health, they can cause physical discomfort and an unwanted trait during an already challenging time for a woman. How can she cope?

Doctors recommend conservative therapies to pregnant women experiencing venous issues, in part because of the likelihood that varicose veins will fade after giving birth (if they were not already there pre-pregnancy). If varicose veins are tagging along on your pregnancy journey, check out these strategies:

  • Keep your legs elevated: This will keep the blood flowing through your system instead of pooling to create varicose veins. Sitting with legs crossed can also exacerbate the issue.
  • Light exercise: Find the right balance between movement to keep the blood flowing without overtaxing your system. Water-based movement can be especially helpful, as well as easy on the body.
  • Dress the part: DON’T wear tight-fitting pants, underwear, belts, and socks, as well as high heeled shoes. DO consider low-strength compression stockings if your doctor approves.
  • Watch your weight: This can be tough when you technically consist of two people in one body. But beyond the recommended increase of 25-30lbs for pregnant women, keep in mind that extra pounds mean extra weight on your legs and increases the risk of venous issues.
  • Eat right: A healthy diet can help keep unwanted weight down, and foods high in vitamin C can help to repair and maintain healthy blood vessels.

Despite the fact that varicose veins are common during pregnancy and the likelihood of them being harmless, you should still inform your OBGYN about your varicose veins as soon as you notice them. Regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not, a link does exist between varicose veins and a risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or blood clots. Notifying your physician of your condition is always the cautious thing to do.

After delivery, you can expect varicose veins to fade within about 4 months. Once you hit the 12-week post-partum mark, any improvements you see will be as good as they will get on their own. At that point, it is safe to consider a vein consultation if necessary—mother approved!