Dealing with Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a life-altering experience for a woman, both physically and emotionally. As you prepare for your baby’s arrival, you may notice some unexpected side effects. These may include thicker hair, shinier nails, glowing skin, and fuller breasts.
Unfortunately, not all pregnancy changes are as desirable. You will likely experience weight gain, mood swings, and frequent urination. You may also develop unsightly and uncomfortable varicose veins.
For some women, these swollen, bumpy, multicolored veins are merely a cosmetic issue. For others, they can not only be unattractive but be painful or uncomfortable. While varicose veins rarely pose serious risks to physical health if left untreated they can lead to serious health conditions like blood clots and venous ulcers.
If you are concerned about varicose veins, pregnancy, and vein disease, we are here to answer your questions. Learn more about these common pregnancy veins below.
What Causes Varicose Veins to Develop During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, several changes occur that make you more susceptible to varicose veins. First of all, as your uterus grows, it puts pressure on the inferior vena cava––the largest vein in the human body, which in turn places strain on leg veins
During pregnancy, your body naturally produces a higher volume of blood to support your developing baby. As a result, your body’s vascular system has to work harder. This can cause veins to malfunction and blood to pool in your legs, ankles, feet, and other areas.
Another cause for varicose veins during pregnancy is the influx of hormones, particularly progesterone, which can relax the walls of your blood vessels.
Do Varicose Pregnancy Veins Only Occur in the Legs?
Although varicose veins due to pregnancy are most common in the legs, they can occur elsewhere. Particularly in late pregnancy, they can show up on your buttocks, vagina, or vulva. This happens when the lower abdomen puts increased pressure on the veins in these regions. Your OB/GYN or midwife is likely to diagnose varicose veins in the vulva during a routine checkup.
What Are Common Pregnancy Vein Symptoms?
Although some women may not experience any issues during pregnancy, others may struggle with debilitating varicose vein symptoms. These can include:
- Cramps or achiness in the thigh or calf
- Restlessness, especially at night
- Wounds on your legs or ankles that take a long time to heal or don’t heal at all
- Pain, discomfort, itching, or burning in affected areas
- A feeling of heaviness in the legs
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
- Pain that is relieved when legs are elevated
- Muscle cramps, especially at night
- Skin issues surrounding swollen veins
- Itchy, dry, or hardened skin on your legs
Will My Varicose Veins Get Worse While Pregnant?
Unfortunately, varicose veins tend to worsen as the pregnancy progresses. As your veins swell and become more visible, you may also experience increased pain and other symptoms.
You may be wondering what this all means after pregnancy. Often, varicose pregnancy veins resolve on their own. However, the more severe your varicose veins are, the more likely they’ll stick around afterward and require treatment. The good news is that varicose veins in your vagina or vulva almost always resolve naturally after delivery. Although painful varicose veins while you’re pregnant can be ugly and uncomfortable, they are not usually a major cause for alarm during pregnancy. But don’t ignore your symptoms, since vein disease has the potential to lead to serious complications.
How Are Varicose Veins During Pregnancy Diagnosed?
If you experience symptoms of varicose veins, be sure to contact your doctor. Based on a physical examination, they should be able to confirm the presence of varicose veins.
What Are Some Varicose Vein Complications?
If you have varicose veins, you are at increased risk for two related health conditions––blood clots and venous ulcers.
There are two main types of blood clots. The type that most often arises due to varicose veins is called superficial venous thrombosis (SVT). These do not usually travel to the lungs. However, there is also the possibility of another type of blood clot called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These can develop within severe varicose veins in your legs and are much more serious. Skin ulcers or wounds can also form and take a long time to heal due to the reduction in blood flow to the lower limbs.
Please seek emergency care if you notice that:
- Your varicose veins take on a hard, rope-like quality
- The surrounding area seems hot, painful, or tender
- There are notable changes in vein color
- Sores develop on the skin
- There is severe swelling in either leg
How Do I Deal With Painful Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
When it comes to varicose veins during pregnancy, you can only control a handful of factors. As mentioned, we recommend avoiding excess weight gain, exercising regularly, not standing for long periods, avoiding wearing high heels, and maintaining a healthy diet. You may also want to ask your doctor about any potential benefits of wearing compression stockings.
Unfortunately, varicose vein treatment while pregnant is not typically advised, so your treatment options are limited. Treatment is generally not available for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.
But since varicose veins often resolve on their own postpartum, we usually recommend waiting a year after giving birth to seek treatment.
What Are My Treatment Options After Pregnancy?
If you are envisioning a painful vein surgery and a lengthy recovery, we want to set your mind at ease. Just because we can’t treat varicose veins during pregnancy doesn’t mean we want you to needlessly suffer. At USA Vein Clinics, our vein specialists offer minimally invasive, office-based vein treatments that can improve or eliminate your symptoms. You can get treated for varicose veins and spider veins at any of our 90 convenient nationwide locations.
If your varicose veins don’t resolve naturally after pregnancy, we can help you take back control of your life. Simply schedule an appointment online or give us a call at 855.768.3467. For your safety and convenience, we offer either office-based or telemedicine consultations.