Varicose veins are a common feature of pregnancy and while many bulging veins resolve within months of giving birth, varicose veins in pregnancy can be extremely uncomfortable and painful.
Due to changes in hormones, water balance, blood pressure and volume, and body weight and distribution, varicose veins can develop in the legs, vulva, and rectum during pregnancy. This can make it uncomfortable to sit, stand, exercise, and use the bathroom, making varicose veins more than just a temporary cosmetic issue.
Varicose veins may also feel itchy and painful, lead to problematic bleeding and skin ulcers, and even result in heaviness in the legs that hinders exercise and normal daily activities.
Treatment for varicose veins is not normally carried out during pregnancy, unless there are exceptional circumstances. As such, taking steps to minimize the risk of varicose veins is preferable, such as:
- Maintaining an exercise regimen – staying physically active is recommended during pregnancy as this can minimize the risk of a range of complications, varicose veins included. Gentle swimming, walking, prenatal yoga and other activities help keep blood flowing and blood vessels strong, but be sure to talk to your physician before embarking on any new type of exercise.
- Elevating your legs – take 15 minutes twice a day to elevate your legs above heart height. This helps encourage venous return to prevent blood pooling in the veins of the legs and causing bulging.
- Avoiding high heels – wearing flats during pregnancy can help to keep blood flowing by working the calf muscles. It’s also a good idea to avoid high heels many ligaments relax during pregnancy, which could increase the risk of joint strain and stumbles.
- Wearing maternity compression stockings – many pharmacies stock special compression stockings especially for use during pregnancy. These stockings provide gentle consistent pressure on the lower legs to help blood flow back up to the heart rather than pooling in the legs where it can put pressure on the veins and lead to blood clot formation.
- Sleeping on your left side – pressure from the uterus on the pelvic blood vessels can increase the risk of varicose veins and other problems during pregnancy. To minimize such pressure, try to sleep on your left side, and use a pregnancy pillow to support your body and keep your blood flowing.
In addition to these tips, remember to stay hydrated and to keep salt intake to a minimum. Excess salt increases water retention, which increases blood pressure and puts more strain on the veins. Eating a diet high in fiber and water can also help lessen the risk of developing hemorrhoids In pregnancy by keeping constipation at bay.
If you do develop varicose veins while pregnant, rest assured that for many people these bulging veins resolve themselves without intervention over a few months after giving birth. If varicose veins remain problematic a year after giving birth, it can help to talk to a specialist to discuss your treatment options, such as minimally invasive surgery for varicose veins.