Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Veins are the blood vessels that return blood from your extremities to your heart. Varicose veins are those tiny, squiggly, blue or purple veins that show up mainly on your legs near the surface of your skin. Many men and women experience them as they age, especially if they’ve worked a lifetime standing or walking. However, many pregnant women experience varicose veins all over their body, including in their rectum (hemorrhoids are varicose veins in the rectal area).
Every woman is different. Some women say the varicose veins only bother them because of their appearance, while other say the veins make them feel achy and heavy. Some women say the skin surrounding the varicose veins itch, throb or burn. It really depends on each woman when it comes to how they react to the varicose veins once they appear or become more prominent.
What Causes Varicose Veins?
There is an extremely large vein on the right side of all of our bodies, regardless if you are a man or woman. And when a woman becomes pregnant, the growing uterus applies pressure to this vein (the inferior vena cava), which leads to an increase in pressure in the leg veins. The amount of blood increases significantly in pregnant women, which only adds to the load on your veins. As with many other pregnancy symptoms, progesterone can be the culprit as it causes the walls of blood vessels to relax.
Another culprit can be hereditary. More common in women than men, if you have older family members that have noticeable varicose veins, chances are you’re going to have to deal with them sooner or later. The good news is that for many pregnant women, the varicose veins, even if hereditary, become less prominent after child birth.
If you are overweight, carrying twins or multiples or stand majority of your days, remember that you are more susceptible than other pregnant women.
Occasionally, pregnant women who have varicose veins develop small blood clots near the skin’s surface. Superficial venous thrombosis can make the veins feel hard, and can cause symptoms such as redness, heat, tenderness and pain. Although this condition is generally not a serious problem, it’s important you talk with your health care provider about the issue. If a fever or chills is present you may need to be treated with antibiotics.
Often confused with superficial venous thrombosis, DVT, or deep venous thrombosis are blood clots that are found in deep veins, not varicose veins which tend to be close to the surface of the skin. Pregnancy does make women more susceptible to DVT, however it’s not very common. In fact, the two terms are more commonly confused with each other than women who actually experience DVT.
Preventing Varicose Veins
For most women there are steps you can take to decrease your chances of getting varicose veins. Exercising daily, such as taking a walk, can improve and help with the circulation in your legs. If your life consists of plenty of walking or standing, elevating your legs as often as possible can help reduce pressure and stress that is put on your legs.
Since the inferior vena cava is on your right side, laying on your left or placing a pillow behind you so you tilt towards your left side can reduce pressure that is put on the large vein, legs and feet.
Ever heard of graduated-compression stockings? They are prescription-strength support hose that are usually found in medical supply stores or pharmacies. The hose is twice as thick as normal stockings, as they help prevent swelling and help varicose veins from worsening. They are tight at the ankle and loosen as they rise up the leg, allowing blood to flow back to your heart easier.
Treating Varicose Veins
While pregnant, doing what you can to prevent varicose veins may not always work. So it’s important to know that the veins are generally not serious and tend to disappear within a few months after child birth. Wearing the support hose after child birth can help the process along, as exercise and avoiding long periods of standing or sitting can too. If the veins have not gone away after this period of time, talk with your healthcare provider about referring you to a specialist who deals with the removal of varicose veins.