Why Varicose Veins are Common During Pregnancy and How to Prevent Them

With all the buzz about a new royal baby due to arrive sometime this month, we’ve got pregnancy on the brain! While Meghan Markle may be nearing the end of her pregnancy, many expectant mothers even as early as the first trimester may experience an increased risk of varicose veins. These dilated veins bulge to the skin’s surface looking twisted, gnarled, and blue and most often appearing in an individual’s legs.

While symptoms can vary from one patient to another, pregnant mothers with varicose veins may experience leg pain, aching legs, itchy skin, and leg swelling among other symptoms.

Our Southern Utah vein specialists are here to answer any questions you may have surrounding varicose veins and pregnancy. Read some responses below, or meet with them in person at our local vein centers in St. George, Cedar City, Beaver, and Kanab, UT.

Why Are Varicose Veins Common While Being Pregnant?

To start, what causes varicose veins during pregnancy? The reasons behind varicose veins depends on the patient, but most cases involving pregnant mothers can point their diagnosis towards one of these causes:

  • An increased volume of blood in your body plays a large role in the appearance of varicose veins during pregnancy. More blood is needed to support and sustain your baby, but blood flow is slowed down as your baby gets larger and puts more pressure on your legs. All that blood begins to pool in your ankles and lower legs, causing swelling and, yes, varicose veins.
  • Hormones can also be part of what increases your risk of varicose veins, specifically the hormone progesterone. This hormone dilates veins which allows for more of that blood to pool together rather than flow efficiently through veins.
  • Constipation is another issue that many pregnant women face, which can lead to another type of varicose veins: hemorrhoids. These are varicose veins that appear near the anus. Patients may also develop varicose veins in the vulva from decreased blood circulation during pregnancy, sometimes making it painful to sit down.
  • Genes shouldn’t be left out of the equation either as varicose veins can be a hereditary issue. Women whose mothers and/or grandmothers also developed varicose veins during their pregnancies or later in life have greater chances of developing varicose veins themselves.

Can Varicose Veins During Pregnancy Be Dangerous?

Any expectant mother, no matter how far along in their pregnancy, wants to be sure that their baby is safe and out of harm’s way. When varicose veins start popping up, though, it may give women cause for concern about their baby’s health.

Varicose veins themselves may be unpleasant to look at, but are not unsafe for you or your baby. Problems may arise, however, if poor circulation as evidenced by varicose veins leads to superficial or deep vein thrombosis, conditions in which blood clots develop within veins. These can be dangerous if they make their way to vital organs such as your lungs. Watch for signs of a blood clot including heat or discoloration in the affected area. You may also feel a consistent sharp pain or tugging sensation if a blood clot has developed.

Skin ulcers or extremely swollen legs and ankles may also indicate advanced complications. Schedule an appointment with our vein specialists if you experience any of these symptoms during your pregnancy or afterwards.

How Can I Prevent Varicose Veins While Pregnant?

What ways can you prevent varicose veins during pregnancies? Are there any ways? While some causes can’t be controlled, you can manage or prevent certain symptoms by following steps such as these:

  • Keep legs elevated. When sitting or lying down, place legs in an elevated position above your heart. This will direct more blood flow back to your heart so less blood pools down at your ankles or lower legs. Try to avoid crossing legs or ankles as well for better circulation.
  • Exercise! One of the best ways to improve blood circulation and prevent varicose veins is regular exercise every day. That being said, creating an exercise plan is easier said than done. Increased fatigue, nausea, or morning sickness can make exercise the last item women want to check off on their to-do list. But even just half an hour a day of light exercise can make a dramatic difference in varicose vein symptoms. That includes a short walk or small one minute exercises scattered throughout the day. Do what you feel most comfortable with, as long as you get moving!
  • Maintain a good weight. Your healthy weight range will change the further you are in your pregnancy, but as long as you stay within that range, you will put less pressure on your legs for greater relief. Talk with your OBGYN about what’s a reasonable weight for your current trimester and how to maintain that weight with a balanced diet and exercise program.
  • Move around regularly, and give your feet a rest. Many women will notice that their leg pain feels worse after a long day running after another child or at a job when they’re on their feet all day. Make sure you’re switching up your position throughout the day to get blood flowing. Whether that’s a quick walk around the block or standing for hours to laying down on the couch, mix up your movement and position often.
  • Consider compression socks or stockings. Compression socks won’t prevent varicose veins, but they will certainly help alleviate some of your leg pain and other symptoms. They, along with compression stockings, provide pressure in your ankles and throughout your legs to encourage better blood flow.

Do Varicose Veins Go Away After Pregnancy?

Generally, yes! Varicose veins and their symptoms diminish for most women within 3-4 months after their baby is born. However, older women or women who have had multiple pregnancies may not see such results as quickly if at all.

A good standard for any woman is to continue the habits developed during pregnancy to help prevent against varicose veins, including daily exercise, a balanced diet, and wearing compression socks. Should varicose veins still persist, consider varicose vein treatment designed to close or remove varicose veins.

For patients in Southern Utah, talk with a vein specialist about the best varicose vein treatment for your specific needs and other recommendations to help with varicose veins during pregnancy. We offer a variety of solutions that are less painful than the common laser treatment for varicose veins with better results! Find us in Beaver, Cedar City, Kanab, and St. George, UT!

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