Many women get varicose veins as a side effect of pregnancy. If you are concerned about varicose veins during pregnancy, here is everything you need to know to prevent, manage, and treat this condition.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are damaged veins. Whereas healthy veins circulate blood back to the heart, varicose veins have malfunctioning vein valves that cause the blood to pool or flow backward. Varicose veins are easily recognized by their bulging, twisted, ropey appearance that is visible through the skin. Most of the time, varicose veins develop on the legs.
Similar to varicose veins are spider veins. Spider veins also occur due to vein valve malfunction, but they develop more of a spiky appearance like that of a spider’s legs or web. Spider veins also most commonly appear on the legs.
Why Do Women Get Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
There are several reasons why pregnancy causes varicose veins. For one, pregnancy increases hormone levels, and hormones are a known contributor to varicose veins. Additionally, during pregnancy, the blood volume within a woman’s body increases to nourish both mother and baby. Increased blood flow creates more pressure on the circulatory system and creates more opportunities for vein malfunction.
Another reason that pregnancy can cause varicose veins is because the growing fetus puts pressure on the vena cava, which is the largest vein in the body. This pressure on the vena cava disperses more pressure on other leg veins and may cause some veins to become varicose.
Pregnancy can also cause other side effects and behaviors that may increase your risk of developing varicose veins. For instance, weight gain (during pregnancy or otherwise) can lead to varicose veins. Other examples are prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle, which are more common during late pregnancy as physical movement becomes more cumbersome and tiring.
How Can I Prevent Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
A few things may help to reduce or prevent varicose veins during pregnancy. One is to wear compression stockings during pregnancy. Talk to your obstetrician to receive a recommendation. You can also elevate your legs and feet while sitting or lying down to help your blood flow back toward your heart. Physical movement is encouraged–flex your ankles, go for a walk, and enjoy low-key activities that increase circulation.
Additionally, keep a careful eye on how much weight you gain. Most women should gain only 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy; excess weight gain overburdens the circulatory system and increases the risk of varicose veins. To help, get a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins, especially vitamin C, for good nutrition and healthy circulation.
Another preventative measure you can take is to resolve any potential vein problems before you become pregnant, especially if you have a personal or family history of venous disease. Because vein treatment during pregnancy is inadvisable, you can mitigate worsening vein problems during pregnancy by getting existing vein problems treated beforehand. Vein treatment before pregnancy or between pregnancies improves comfort and well-being and may help prevent varicose veins during pregnancy.
Can You Treat Varicose Veins While Pregnant?
Sclerotherapy and other popular treatments for varicose veins are not recommended during pregnancy. It is best to get any varicose veins treated before or after pregnancy to ensure the health and safety of both the mother and child.
Do Varicose Veins Go Away After Pregnancy?
Often, varicose veins improve after pregnancy without special treatment. A gradual improvement in varicose veins can usually be seen within about three months after the baby is born as hormone levels rebalance and blood volume diminishes to normal.
However, it is important to note that when a vein valve becomes damaged, it cannot repair itself. Therefore, once a vein has become varicose, it will remain varicose even if its symptoms and appearance improve. Vein varicosities can worsen with time and with subsequent pregnancies, especially if the damage is at the saphenofemoral junction or in perforating veins. Therefore, it is usually recommended that any varicose veins from pregnancy be examined and treated after the child is born.
How Do I Get Rid of Varicose Veins After Pregnancy?
Varicose veins may improve naturally after pregnancy, but you should consider treatment if improvement does not occur or if the vein causes symptoms. Vein treatment is the only way to completely resolve varicose veins, as they cannot repair themselves. Treatment is often recommended after or between pregnancies and can improve your quality of life and reduce your risk of varicose veins during future pregnancies. There are a number of effective varicose vein treatments available:
- EVLA (laser therapy)
- ClosureFast™ (radiofrequency energy)
- VenaSeal™ (medical adhesive)
- Ambulatory Phlebectomy (micro-extraction surgery)
- Sclerotherapy (chemical irritant)
- Excel V+ (laser treatment)
These treatments disable the varicose vein, and the body eliminates the damaged tissue and diverts the blood flow through healthy veins. Getting treatment for your varicose veins from pregnancy can help alleviate symptoms, improve your appearance, prevent future vein problems, and reduce the likelihood of worsening varicose veins during pregnancy in the future.
For more information about varicose veins during pregnancy, or to receive treatment for varicose veins, schedule an appointment here at Vein Specialists of Augusta. Our vein experts can answer your questions and help you get the treatment you need for healthy veins. Call (706) 854-8340 or contact us online today.