Pregnant women are at higher risk than normal for common conditions, and one of these is varicose veins. Varicose veins are common during pregnancy, especially among women who have a family history of the condition.
What are some of the elevated risks of varicose veins during pregnancy, and how can you help prevent them? Here’s a look.
Pregnancy and Varicose Vein Risks
Pregnancy by itself is one significant risk factor for varicose veins. This is due to the body increasing blood flow during pregnancy, but also decreasing the speed that blood returns from the legs to the pelvis. This puts additional pressure on these veins.
A higher level of a hormone called progesterone is also present during pregnancy. This can cause veins to be more dilated or open, which in turn contributes to varicose veins. A couple things to think about when it comes to varicose veins and pregnancy include:
- Varicose veins during pregnancy are not limited to only the legs. They can also occur in the vulva, and range from small and barely noticeable to large and disfiguring. The vulva can feel sore and swollen, and create difficulty sitting down.
- Hemorrhoids, or swollen and inflamed veins in the anus and lower rectum, are another form of varicose veins. They’re most commonly associated with pregnancy and constipation, and because constipation can often increase during pregnancy, this is a high-awareness time for hemorrhoids.
Tips for Limiting Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
You can’t control things like your family history of varicose veins or changes in hormones and circulation during pregnancy, but there are still steps you can take to help prevent or lower the effects of varicose veins while pregnant:
- Elevate the legs: Raising the legs higher than the level of the heart promotes good circulation. Any time you have a chance to rest with your feet up, do so. Some women find success placing a firm pillow between the mattress and the box spring to raise the legs while sleeping.
- Vary your positions: If you stand or sit for long periods at a time, take periodic breaks to do the other activity and switch things up.
- Maintain a healthy weight: A large amount of weight gain in a short period of time will be hard on the veins.
- Wear support garments: Try support garments like pantyhose or thigh high support hose. Knee high support hose or socks can sometimes be too constrictive. For women struggling with discomfort in the vulva, try a garment specifically designed for varicose veins in this area.
- Watch your diet: For hemorrhoids prevention, drink lots of fluids, add extra fiber to the diet and, if needed, consider asking your doctor about a stool softener if constipation remains an issue.
It’s important to stay patient during this process. Varicose veins developed during pregnancy often disappear within a few months or a year after you’ve delivered, once you’ve recovered from vascular and hormonal changes that take place.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns or discomfort you have. They can offer additional treatment recommendations based on your individual situation.
“Pregnancy: Varicose Veins – Topic Overview.” WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/pregnancy-varicose-veins-topic-overview
“Varicose veins and pregnancy: Legs and more.” The Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/expert-blog/varicose-veins-and-pregnancy/bgp-20055799