Yay, you’re pregnant! Boo, you’ve got varicose veins! When you notice your first varicose vein, it can be alarming, but they are usually harmless and common. Research has shown that up to 40% of pregnant women get them. And if your mother had them when she was pregnant with you, you’ve probably got them too. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about varicose veins during pregnancy.
What Are Varicose Veins?
If you’ve got one, you know what it looks like. It’s blue or purple, prominent, and swollen. It’s probably on your leg, but it could also be anywhere in the lower half of your body. You might even see one on your vulva or rectum (hemorrhoids). Basically, a varicose vein is an enlarged vein with blood pooled up in it because a valve isn’t working correctly, or the blood isn’t getting pumped strongly enough back towards the heart.
What Causes Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
Part of being pregnant is carrying extra weight and volume. We’re not just talking about baby weight. We’re talking about extra blood. While you are pregnant, your total blood volume can increase from 20% to 100%. The extra pressure on the blood vessels in your legs makes it even more difficult for your body to push all that extra blood back to your heart. With that much more blood taxing your veins, it’s no surprise that varicose veins are a normal part of pregnancy.
Your body is now full of progesterone, which relaxes the blood vessels and contributes to blood pooling in the veins. And your uterus is now exerting pressure on your pelvic blood vessels, which inhibits the blood flow to the heart. You are also carrying more bodyweight, which is one of the leading causes of varicose veins in any person, pregnant or not.
When Can I Expect Varicose Veins to Start to Appear During Pregnancy?
The short answer is: anytime. It depends on the individual and the pregnancy. They could start as early as the first trimester or right up to the last week. One thing you can count on, though, is that once a varicose vein appears, it will probably become more pronounced as your pregnancy progresses. Don’t worry; once you have delivered your beautiful baby, the varicose veins should recede rather quickly.
Is There Anything I Can Do About Varicose Veins While I’m Pregnant?
Here are eight tips that can help minimize varicose veins during pregnancy.
- Keep that blood flowing. Elevate your legs whenever possible. This means, get your feet above your heart. If you have to stand on your feet a lot, get off your feet whenever you can. But when you do have to stand for long periods, move your legs by putting one foot on a low stool at a time. Whether you are sitting or standing, roll your ankles often throughout the day. And don’t sit with your legs crossed!
- Get moving, girl! Undertaking low-impact, circulation-increasing exercises like walking or swimming will keep your circulatory system and your baby happy.
- Wear clothes comfy. All of your clothes, including underwear, should be loose-fitting—no tight clothing, especially around the tops of your legs. And put away the tight-fitting shoes and stiletto heels until after you’ve given birth.
- Support it. There is one kind of tight that can be helpful during pregnancy, maternity support hose. Support hose or compression socks can keep the blood from pooling in your legs, and give the blood in your legs a little upward push.
- Watch your weight. Yes, you are going to gain weight, and that’s a good thing, but gaining more weight than your practitioner recommends can cause serious problems. Any extra pounds can increase the demands on your already overworked circulatory system.
- Sleep on your left side. Remember how we talked about one of the causes of varicose veins being your uterus putting pressure on your pelvic blood vessels? Laying on your left side lets gravity do the work of shifting your baby’s weight off the main blood vessels in your pelvis and keeps your blood flow steady and strong.
- Don’t strain. Heavy lifting is a no-no as is straining on the toilet. If you are constipated, you may be tempted to try your hardest to push one out. Leave the pushing for labor! Straining on the toilet can increase vein visibility and give you hemorrhoids.
- Get your daily dose. Would it surprise you that eating a balanced diet while pregnant can help keep your veins healthy? If you are concerned about varicose veins, make sure to eat lots of foods with vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body produce collagen and elastin, which are needed to repair and maintain blood vessels.
If I Follow These Tips, Can I Prevent Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
It’s possible, but although some people believe that exercising, wearing compression socks, and elevating your feet can prevent varicose veins, these techniques are not proven to keep varicose veins at bay. You can always give it a try.
When Will These Varicose Veins Go Away?
If pregnancy caused the varicose vein, it will likely shrink or disappear within a few months after delivery. If you get pregnant again, the same veins are likely to pop out again.
Should I Call the Doctor About Varicose Veins When Pregnant?
Yes. As soon as you see one pop up, let your doctor know. Although they are generally harmless, there is an association between varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Your health care provider will want to be kept abreast of any changes to the varicose vein, including swelling, redness, itchiness, or throbbing.
What If My Varicose Veins Don’t Go Away After Delivery?
Occasionally varicose veins stick around. If that’s the case for you, don’t worry. If you don’t want to look at them anymore or are causing you discomfort, you can have them removed.
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