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Are Varicose Veins Dangerous When Pregnant?

Pregnancy comes with all kinds of unexpected surprises -- your feet can change size, you’re craving strange foods, and your skin can even change pigmentation. Varicose veins during pregnancy can also come as a surprise. Learn about varicose veins during pregnancy and pregnancy-friendly vein care options.

What Are Varicose Veins?

Your veins bring deoxygenated blood from your body back to your heart to get more oxygen. The blood often travels long distances, like from your feet back up to your chest. When your vein walls become stressed, they can’t quite push the blood back as efficiently as they used to.

This causes blood to pool, leading to bulging and purple- or blue-colored veins. These varicose veins most commonly form in the legs and groin.

Why Do Women Get Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women are at higher risk for varicose veins. During pregnancy, your uterus gradually grows larger to accommodate the growing baby. As your womb grows, it places pressure on a vein called your inferior vena cava. This is the major vein that carries blood from your lower body back to your heart. As pressure is placed on the vein, it may begin to bulge and develop varicosity. Changes in your body’s hormones also make varicose veins more likely. Specifically, the hormone progestin makes veins wider and more susceptible to varicosities.

About 10 to 20% of women may develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Certain factors make varicose veins more common. For example, if your mother or grandmother developed varicose veins, you are at higher risk. Poor cardiovascular health may also increase your risk.

Varicose Vein Treatment Options During Pregnancy

Many pregnant women wonder about vein treatment options for varicose veins. The best treatment is to prevent varicose veins from developing in the first place. Some factors, like genetics and your uterus growing, are outside of your control. However, taking the following steps may prevent varicose veins during pregnancy:

  • Avoid prolonged periods of sitting or standing, as this causes blood to pool in your legs.
  • Stay physically active, even though the third trimester. Walking, swimming, and body weight exercises can help. Talk to your doctor about safe options for you.
  • Don’t wear high-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on your left side. Your inferior vena cava runs down the right side of your body, so sleeping on the left reduces pressure on this important vein.
  • Lower your sodium intake to reduce swelling.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Wear maternity support hosiery, which keeps blood flowing in your legs.

The good news is that most women's varicose veins go away within three months after delivery. For this reason, surgical vein treatment during pregnancy is not usually recommended. If veins persist, however, you may want to consider vein treatment. Make an appointment in the early postpartum period to learn about the best vein care treatment options for you.

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