Varicose Veins and Pregnancy

When you think of pregnancy symptoms, what comes to mind? Morning sickness may be the first thing you think of, but there’s another common implication of pregnancy: varicose veins. These bulging veins most often appear on the legs and can be a source of discomfort. But why do these varicose veins, a sign of venous insufficiency, pop up during pregnancy? The vascular surgeons in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center would like to share a few reasons why these often appear in pregnant women, as well as ways to decrease your risk of developing them during a pregnancy.

What are varicose veins?

Your vein valves have an important job: effectively keeping your blood circulating throughout your body. If these valves become weakened or damaged, then they struggle to do their job properly. This most often happens in the legs where your veins work the hardest to circulate blood upward, against the flow of gravity. A damaged valve can lead to blood pooling in the veins, causing a varicose vein to form.

Varicose veins most noticeable feature is their appearance: dark, bumpy veins that are visible under the skin. Some people with varicose veins also experience swollen, painful, tired, restless, or itchy legs. When left untreated, varicose veins can lead to ulcers or blood clots. It’s important to take care of your venous health and see a specialist for any concerns. Varicose vein treatment nowadays is easy and covered by most insurance plans. A blood clot, however, is a more serious condition that can be more stressful to treat. And, naturally, no one wants to risk serious health problems while they’re expecting a baby.

Why do varicose veins occur often during pregnancy?

Since varicose veins are so tightly linked to weak vein valves, you may wonder why they tend to appear during pregnancy. The answer is simple; when you’re pregnant, your blood volume increases and there is considerably more pressure placed on the inferior vena cava, a large vein in the body. This added pressure causes the vein valves to break down, which, as we’ve discussed, increases the risk of varicose veins.

The extra pressure on your veins isn’t the only culprit. Not only are vein valves struggling to circulate blood through your body, increased levels of progesterone during pregnancy also dilates the veins. All of this makes it very difficult for vein valves to do their job as well as they were before.

So, is it inevitable that varicose veins will appear if you’re pregnant? Not at all! Pregnancy puts you at an increased risk of varicose veins, but there are still some precautions you can take to lessen that risk.

Elevate Legs
It’s important for everyone to take the time to put their feet up and relax, as being on your feet all day isn’t healthy for anyone. This is even more critical when you’re pregnant. Dedicate some time to elevating your feet above your heart. This will lessen the extra pressure being put on your veins and help with your circulation, lowering your risk of vein valves becoming damaged or worn down.

Sleep on Your Left Side
Remember the inferior vena cava that’s put under stress while you’re pregnant? It’s located on the right side of your body, and sleeping on that side can put more undue stress on an already worn out vein. Try to spend more time sleeping on your left than your right, if it’s comfortable to do so. This will help take some of the pressure off the vein.

Exercise
Exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle. Your venous health is one of many things that improve when you exercise regularly. Low-impact exercises, such as daily walks, can strengthen vein valves and improve the circulation in your legs. It’s not necessary to set aside a huge portion of your day for a walk; a short walk around the neighborhood will help your legs. Even short breaks to walk around the office can help. Of course, you’ll want to speak with your doctor to see what exercise would be ideal for you.

Manage Weight
It’s natural for most women to gain weight during pregnancy. Excessive weight, however, can add to the high pressure put on your veins and also lead to other health problems for you and your baby. We recommend speaking to your doctor to see what is a healthy weight gain for your pregnancy.

Use Supporting Tools
Compression socks can offer some relief from poor circulation. This legwear strategically applies pressure to help your veins move blood upward through the leg. While these socks are normally helpful for those who already have varicose veins, using them during pregnancy can offer some needed comfort. Of course, it’s best to speak with your doctor to see if compression stockings would be useful for you.

Varicose veins can be a natural, albeit unwanted part of pregnancy. However, these preventative methods could lower the risk of developing them. Fortunately, keeping your vein valves healthy only takes a few small, reasonably easy lifestyle choices. Relax your legs when you can, take daily walks around the neighborhood, and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your veins will thank you, especially while they’re struggling with excess pressure. Make sure to speak with your doctor to see if these strategies are right for you and your baby.

Even though we may try our best to avoid varicose veins, sometimes they may still appear. We can lessen our risk, but we can’t entirely diminish it. If you’re currently dealing with varicose veins, it may be time to visit a vascular surgeon in Orlando. The Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center is home to specialists who have dedicated their lives to venous care so that you can get the treatment you deserve. If you’re struggling with varicose veins and would like to set up a consultation with a specialist, please call 407-545-3385 or 352-658-5547 today. We would be happy to meet with you and set up a treatment plan that is best for your unique situation.