Varicose veins aren’t exclusive to pregnancy, but pregnancy can contribute to the development of varicose veins. About 40% of expectant mothers develop varicose veins. But what is it about pregnancy that makes vein issues more common?
Below, Dr. Henock Saint-Jaques explores the link between pregnancy and varicose veins 一 and what you can do if your varicose veins linger long after your pregnancy.
Exploring the link between pregnancy and varicose veins
Pregnancy changes a woman’s body in many obvious ways to support a growing baby, but pregnancy also contributes to many cardiovascular changes 一 changes that you can’t necessarily see with the naked eye. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases anywhere from 20-100% above prepregnancy levels. The average increase, however, is about 45%.
While this blood volume increase is necessary to deliver enough oxygen and nutrients to your growing baby via the placenta, it does have an unintended side effect: The increased volume enlarges your veins. The increased blood volume, the enlarged veins, and the heavy weight of a growing baby all put pressure on the blood vessels in your pelvis, particularly your largest vein, the inferior vena cava.
This can alter the blood flow, and if blood flow is disrupted, it can pool in your veins, causing those tell-tale purple bulging veins. This explains how pregnancy increases your risk of both varicose veins and hemorrhoids.
Varicose veins can form in your legs, in the genital area, and even in your rectum. (Hemorrhoids are similar to varicose veins and are swollen veins that cause discomfort.) To compound the issue, many pregnant women struggle with constipation, which can further exacerbate varicose veins in your rectum.
Can you prevent varicose veins during pregnancy?
Because varicose veins do have some risk factors that aren’t within your control (such as family history) and you can’t avoid the blood volume increase during pregnancy, you can’t prevent varicose veins with a 100% guarantee. That being said, there are strategies you can take to reduce the symptoms of varicose veins and help prevent them from getting worse.
Keep these tips in mind:
- Wear maternity support hose
- Don’t cross your legs when sitting
- Take frequent breaks to stretch and walk around
- Avoid standing or sitting for prolonged hours
- Elevate your feet when relaxing at night
- Exercise (if cleared to do so by your OB GYN or midwife)
- Sleep on your left side, which helps take pressure off of your inferior vena cava
Because varicose veins can cause aches, cramping, and a sensation of heaviness, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if your symptoms become problematic.
What to do about varicose veins
For some women, varicose veins get better after delivery because there isn’t as much pressure on your vena cava as there was during pregnancy, but this isn’t the case for all women.
While lifestyle modifications can help you manage varicose vein symptoms while you’re pregnant, you might consider other treatments once your baby is born. Here at Harlem Cardiology, we offer a variety of options for eliminating varicose veins.
Depending on your overall health and your specific needs, Dr. Saint-Jacques may recommend any of the following:
- Laser therapy
- Radiofrequency ablation
- High ligation and vein stripping
- Ambulatory phlebectomy
- Endoscopy vein surgery
To learn more about your varicose vein treatment options at our Madison Avenue office, call us at 646-381-2181 to set up an appointment. Alternatively, you can book a consultation online.