If you are pregnant, or thinking of becoming pregnant and concerned about varicose veins, some of the questions that have probably occurred to you are:
1) Will I develop varicose veins during my pregnancy?
The answers to this question is a classic good news/bad news scenario.
First, the good news. If you don’t have varicose veins before becoming pregnant, the odds are that you won’t develop them. Two out of three women (60 to 70% ) go through their pregnancies and give birth without developing varicose veins.
The bad news is that one in three women do develop varicose veins during pregnancy.
More good news, is that most of the women who develop varicose veins during pregnancy do see improvements. Most of the visible varicose veins tend to go away within three months of giving birth.
Additional bad news, however, is that among the women who develop varicose veins during their first pregnancy, 55% also develop them during successive pregnancies. Many see the varicose veins persist between pregnancies.
2) Why is this happening? Isn’t pregnancy challenging enough?
Blame nature. When you’re pregnant, the total volume of blood in your veins increases, which puts stress on the vein walls. At the same time, your body is flooded with hormones that cause the veins to expand.
The weight of the baby puts direct pressure on the largest vein in the body, the vena cava. This vein is responsible for distributing blood to all the other veins in your body. As a result, there can be a “domino effect” on smaller veins in the legs and ankles.
The actual cause of varicose veins is a condition called venous insufficiency or venous reflux, which is a failure to pump blood properly. This condition occurs when the tiny, one-way valves in the veins begin to malfunction. The valves stop closing properly after blood flows through them, and this allows blood to flow “backwards” into the veins and pool there. Voilà – varicose veins. They fill with deoxygenated blood (which is blue), swell, and can be seen on the surface of the skin.
Back to basics.
In most cases, particularly in non-pregnant ladies, small varicose veins are not considered a medical danger. However, if they develop in the pelvic veins inside the uterus they can cause a lot of discomfort. In both pregnant and non-pregnant ladies, large varicose veins increase your risk of clotting and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), which can be dangerous and even life-threatening. It is important to get these veins evaluated by a specialist.
The negative symptoms associated with varicose veins during pregnancy are usually muscle cramps or aching in the legs, swollen feet and ankles, skin itchiness or dermatitis in the lower legs, and occasional bouts of Restless Leg Syndrome, a feeling of “creepy crawlies” in the legs.
3) That doesn’t sound like fun. Can I prevent varicose veins?
Sadly, as we suggested earlier, for a third of women “nature wins” in this scenario. There is not much you can do to completely prevent them, if your other risk factors collide with becoming pregnant.
But what you can do, is try not to sit or stand for long periods of time. If your work keeps you at your desk all day, make sure to get up and walk around at least once an hour, and consider putting a small stool under the desk to elevate your legs. Another thing that will help is maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise. We also suggest wearing medial grade compression stockings during the day. Compression stockings can help to compress your swollen veins, stop them from growing as fast, and promote more healthy blood flow. They will also help ease the symptoms of varicose veins.
4) I know varicose veins can be removed. Is that safe during pregnancy?
We recommend that you consult a vein doctor to have your varicose veins checked out by a specialist, but in most cases, we DON’T recommend vein removal treatment during pregnancy.
Depending on the individual case, we can and do encourage women to have their varicose veins treated either before pregnancy if they have them already, or between pregnancies if they develop them during their first pregnancy. This can help to avoid complications in subsequent pregnancies.
In even more good news, varicose vein treatment these days is gentle, safe, and doesn’t even require you to go to a hospital or undergo full anaesthesia. State-of-the-art, minimally-invasive treatments such as ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, endovenous laser ablation, radiofrequency ablation, and the use of medical superglue can be performed in the comfort of our The Vein Institute offices on a “walk in and walk back out in about an hour” basis.
If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant and want to find out more about varicose veins from vein specialists, give us a call at 1 300 535 017. We’ll be happy to answer all of your questions.