Varicose veins are common during pregnancy, but usually fade after delivery. Follow these tips to manage the discomfort and make your pregnancy as pleasant as possible.
Awaiting the birth of a child is often a joyous time. But for 40 percent of pregnant women, it comes with an uncomfortable side effect: varicose veins.
Shortly after childbirth, pregnancy-related varicose veins tend to disappear, and for that reason, don’t require medical intervention. But while you’re carrying your baby, you may experience the uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins — pain, swelling, cramping, and tired legs. Fortunately, alleviating those symptoms can be accomplished with some simple, at-home remedies.
Why Varicose Veins Appear During Pregnancy
Changes in a woman’s body during pregnancy may lead to the development of bulging, twisting varicose veins. When carrying a baby, the body produces excess blood to nourish both the mother and the fetus. This occurs at the same time the pregnancy hormone progesterone weakens the vein walls, making it harder for the veins to manage that extra volume of blood. A third factor is the additional weight the growing baby puts on the abdominal veins, which, in turn, slows circulation between the pelvis and the heart.
All of these components strain the vein valves whose job it is to return blood to the heart. These tiny flaps become overwhelmed by the force of gravity when pumping blood from the legs up to the heart. Eventually, the veins swell under the skin and appear as protruding varicose veins.
Treating Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Besides the legs, varicose veins may also develop on the vulva and rectum as hemorrhoids. Although surgical treatment isn’t necessary because the varicose veins will typically recede after delivery, you should alert your doctor to the condition, especially if there are any skin changes or if the veins bleed. Varicose veins can increase the risk of blood clots, so you’ll need to be monitored for that, too.
During your pregnancy, try these self-care tips to manage any discomfort. Each can help counteract the swelling, pain, and cramping that comes along with varicose veins.
- Stay Active. Always check with your doctor about which exercises are safe, but walking and swimming are common low-impact workouts that strengthen the calf muscles. When you work your calf muscles, you’re also helping the vein valves push blood back to the heart.
- Don’t Sit or Stand For Too Long. Sitting or standing for long hours adds pressure to already stressed veins. Give yourself — and your veins — a break by taking brief strolls periodically or flexing your ankles while you sit.
- Put Your Feet Up. An easy way to encourage blood flow back to the chest is by elevating your legs above your heart several times a day. Doing so makes it easier for your veins to circulate blood freely between the extremities and the heart.
- Ditch the High Heels. Instead of heels, switch to flats that work the calf muscles when you walk. Also avoid tight-fitting garments, especially around the waist. Tightly cinching your waist will block blood flow between the inferior vena cava (a large vein in the abdomen) and the extremities.
- Sleep on Your Left Side. Your sleeping position can either help — or hinder — your circulation. To relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava and boost blood flow, sleep on your left side.
- Wear Compression Stockings. These tightly woven socks provide the extra support your veins need to pump blood back to the heart. By compressing the veins, the stockings prevent blood from pooling in the legs.
- Stock Up on Vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a vital role in your circulatory system. That’s because your body uses it to produce collagen, a substance that repairs and keeps blood vessels strong.
Visit the Vein Specialists
If your varicose veins don’t go away within a year after delivery, or you want to know more about how to take care of your varicose veins while pregnant, visit the vein specialists at Premier Heart and Vein Care. We’ll discuss all your surgical and non-surgical treatment options. Contact us today to set up an appointment.