Veins are the blood vessels that return blood to the heart. When they are located in the lower body, including in the legs, the blood must flow against the force of gravity. Varicose veins are veins which swell superficially (just under the skin’s surface) due to pressure from the blood if the structure and function of the vein are compromised. While they may present as tiny red spider veins, they may also be large, blue and bulging.
Varicose veins can be an issue for many women during pregnancy. While the majority of varicose veins are located in the legs, it’s also possible for them to occur elsewhere in the lower body, namely in the rectal area (haemorrhoids) and in the vulva and perineum.
Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
Women may develop varicose veins for the first time during pregnancy, or existing varicose veins may become worse. Varicose veins often have a genetic basis, and if other family members have experienced them, you are more likely to as well.
They may cause no significant symptoms for some women who develop this disorder, while others will experience pain, cramping, heaviness, bruising, and even itching, with the surrounding skin throbbing and burning. The feet may swell. The symptoms are usually worse later in the day, particularly if you spend all day on your feet.
Varicose veins in pregnancy are more common in women who stand for long periods, are overweight, or who are carrying a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc). The issue is likely to become worse with each successive pregnancy.
Causes of Pregnancy-Related Varicose Veins
The volume of blood in a pregnant woman’s body increases and the hormones related to pregnancy also relax the walls of the blood vessels. Additionally, the growth of the uterus and weight of the baby during pregnancy increases internal pressure on the lower body’s blood vessels and the inferior vena cava. This is a very large vein on the right side of the torso. These factors conspire to increase the overall pressure in the veins of the lower body, especially the legs, and varicose veins can be the result.
Treatment of Varicose Veins during Pregnancy
There are various treatment options for pregnancy-related varicose veins.
While unsightly and potentially uncomfortable, varicose veins in pregnancy are generally not harmful. In most cases, varicose veins will improve within a few months after you give birth, especially if you exercise regularly, continue wearing compression stockings, and elevate your legs whenever you can. Although treatment will be postponed until after delivery, you can visit Crows Nest Cosmetic and Vein Clinic to find out more about treatment options, we also have compression stockings available and can assist you in working out a treatment plan.
A very small percentage of pregnant women with varicose veins may develop small blood clots in the superficial veins, and if this happens you will experience:
- Hard, rope-like sensation in the vein
This needs to be addressed by your doctor promptly, and you need to call your doctor immediately if you experience fever, chills, severe swelling, colour changes to the skin near your veins, or if you develop ulcers or other sores on your leg.
What Else Do I Need To Know?
It’s important to understand that for many women, varicose veins improve after the baby has been delivered, particularly when varicosity occurred only with the pregnancy.
Spider veins typically resolve after the delivery of the baby.
There are ways to minimise and even prevent pregnancy-related varicose veins:
- Take a short walk every day to improve your circulation.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid crossing your legs at the knee or ankle.
- Sleep on your left side where possible – this may take pressure off your inferior vena cava (it will also minimise issues like heartburn and indigestion)
- Avoid standing for long periods, especially standing in one spot.
- Put your feet up whenever you can – elevate your legs to the level of your heart or above, using pillows when reclined or a tall stool when sitting.
- Consider wearing compression socks or stockings – these are available at your local pharmacy and can help prevent swelling in the lower legs.
Choose Crows Nest Cosmetic and Vein Clinic
Crows Nest Cosmetic and Vein Clinic offers advanced treatments for varicose veins. Dr Owen Roberts, our Head Vein Doctor, provides a premium service with his extensive, world-class experience in the most effective vein treatments. Please call our clinic today to book a consultation.