Chronic Venous Disease During Pregnancy
Does pregnancy cause varicose veins? That’s actually a tricky question, say the vein specialists in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center, the Orlando area’s top vein surgery specialists.
Pregnant women are already at a higher risk for developing pregnancy-related conditions or exacerbating existing conditions that previously were under control. Pregnancy also contributes to water retention, hemorrhoids and other serious ailments. So, adding varicose veins to the list can put some women over the top. Varicose veins often enlarge during pregnancy and the risk of phlebitis, inflammation of the vein walls, in varicose veins is much higher at the end of a pregnancy and immediately after.
There are a couple of reasons why so many pregnant women experience a worsening of varicose veins. One reason is because of the hormonal changes that take place while pregnant. Veins can start sprouting even before there is any weight gain. Another reason is that as the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of the body, the inferior vena cava, which, in turn, increases pressure in the leg veins. And the chances of this happening increases with each pregnancy. Other contributing factors for pregnant women include being overweight, carrying multiples, and standing for long periods.
Cause and Effect
But does pregnancy lead to varicose veins? One study suggested that when women were evaluated before and after pregnancy, the women who had thought they developed varicose veins during their pregnancy already had existing varicose veins prior. The reality is that while varicose veins can develop at any time, pre-existing varicose veins tend to worsen, and thus become more noticeable, during pregnancy because of hormonal changes, specifically a rise in progesterone, which causes the blood vessel walls to relax, and an increase in blood volume. So, varicose veins in the legs are not actually caused by pregnancy. Interestingly, though, there is a specific varicose vein found only in women who have both been pregnant and had a normal delivery: the vaginal or vulvar varicose vein.
The symptoms of vulvar varicose veins include a feeling of fullness or pressure, swelling and discomfort in the area. Thankfully, vulvar varicose veins don’t typically have a great effect on labor and delivery. Because these veins tend to have a low blood flow, any bleeding is easily controlled. What’s more, vulvar varicose veins usually subside naturally within about six weeks after delivery.
When is It Best to Treat Varicose Veins in Pregnant Women?
A common misconception is that women should wait until they’ve had all their children before getting their varicose veins repaired. In truth, however, it is best to have varicose veins treated before the pregnancy whenever possible, meaning that screenings prior to pregnancy are important.
Of course, there are ways to help reduce the incidence of varicose veins while pregnant, such as:
- Exercising regularly before, during, and after pregnancy
- Keeping weight gains within parameters indicated by your obstetrician
- Elevating feet whenever possible
- When sitting, do not cross legs and/or ankles
- Avoiding sitting for long time periods
- Sleeping on the left side
- Wearing support hose
If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, and want to be screened for venous insufficiency, call the vein specialists in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center today at 407-545-3385 to set up an appointment, or you can make an appointment online.