Dealing with Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
In many ways, pregnancy can be a time of phenomenal change for a woman’s body. As you prepare for your baby’s arrival, you may notice some unexpected, though welcome, side effects. These can 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 cause a lot of pain or discomfort. For all who are affected, varicose veins can be a sign of underlying vein disease. If left untreated, vein disease can lead to serious health conditions like blood clots and venous ulcers.
If you are pregnant, keep an eye out for vein disease symptoms such as:
- Swelling in your legs and ankles
- Cramps or achiness in the thigh or calf
- Tired or heavy legs – common for vein disease in legs
- Restlessness, especially at night
- Itchy, dry, or hardened skin on your legs
- Wounds on your legs or ankles that take a long time to heal or don’t heal at all
- Leg pain that goes away when you walk or elevate your legs
If you are concerned about varicose veins, pregnancy, and vein disease, our vein specialists are here to help. Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about these common pregnancy veins.
Are Varicose Veins During Pregnancy Common?
Varicose veins are a common issue during pregnancy, affecting about 40 percent of pregnant women. Vein symptoms can increase as you get older and with each subsequent pregnancy. Beyond that, carrying multiples (twins, triplets) or having a family history of vein disease can also be risk factors.
To reduce your risks of developing varicose veins during pregnancy, try to lose any excess weight beforehand. If you are already pregnant, stay within a healthy range of pregnancy weight gain. This is usually between 25 and 35 pounds, though recommendations vary based on pre-pregnancy BMI. You may find that eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise can help keep your weight on track. Exercise also helps get your heart pumping and blood moving.
Finally, don’t stand for long periods. This position encourages vein growth and increases symptoms, particularly during pregnancy.
Why Do Varicose Veins Develop During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, a number of 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. The resulting pressure can also place a strain on leg veins, which leads to varicose veins.
During pregnancy, your body naturally produces a higher volume of blood to support your developing baby. As a result, your veins need to work harder to pump deoxygenated blood back to your heart from your extremities. This can cause veins to malfunction and blood to pool in your legs, ankles, feet, and other areas.
Finally, an influx of hormones during pregnancy, particularly progesterone, can relax the walls of your blood vessels. This can also contribute to varicose veins during pregnancy.
Do Varicose Pregnancy Veins Only Occur in the Legs?
Although varicose veins 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.
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:
- 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
Will My Varicose Veins Get Worse While Pregnant?
Unfortunately, varicose veins tend to worsen as 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 for 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.
How Are Varicose Veins During Pregnancy Diagnosed?
If you are experiencing 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 and other symptoms. As for varicose veins in the vulva, your OB/GYN or midwife will likely notice these during a routine checkup.
Although varicose veins 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.
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.
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 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, and not standing for long periods of time. You may also want to ask your doctor about any potential benefits of wearing compression stockings.
If you are wondering about varicose vein treatment during pregnancy, your options are limited. Treatment is generally not available for pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding.
Many of our patients come to us asking if varicose veins go away after pregnancy. We have better news in that regard: Because varicose veins often resolve on their own postpartum, we usually recommend waiting a year beyond pregnancy before seeking treatment.
What Are My Treatment Options After Pregnancy?
If you are envisioning a painful vein surgery and 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 855.615.2555. For your safety and convenience, we are now offering either office-based or telemedicine consultations.