Varicose veins during pregnancy are a common occurrence, with approximately 40% of pregnant women developing them. So, it’s not surprising that there are so many questions surrounding varicose veins in pregnancy. To ease some of your concerns and help you keep your veins happy, we’ll be answering some of them below.
What causes varicose veins in pregnancy?
Studies show that most women who develop varicose veins during pregnancy are likely to experience symptoms during the first trimester. Typically, this occurs within two to three weeks from gestation due to the physiological changes that take place during pregnancy:
- Hormones: The fluctuation of hormones like oestrogen, progesterone, and relaxin can weaken your vein walls, making it difficult for veins to circulate blood. Hence, blood in your veins begins to pool, leading to the formation of varicose veins.
- Increased pressure: An increase in blood volume allows the baby to grow. However, elevated intra-abdominal pressure and central venous return can lead to valve failure, blood pooling, and varicose vein development.
Other factors like age, genetics, and lifestyle may also contribute to your developing this condition.
Where are varicose veins likely to occur
Varicose veins during pregnancy tend to develop in the following areas:
Varicose veins in the legs
Our leg veins carry oxygen-rich blood back to the heart against the pull of gravity, making their job a bit harder as they’re under more strain and pressure throughout the day. Add to that the abdominal pressure and weight applied by your growing baby, and the leg veins become even more prone to this venous disorder.
Symptoms of Chronic Venous Insufficiency are:
- Aching or throbbing legs
- A feeling of tiredness or heaviness in the legs, especially at the end of the day
- Any swelling in the legs, either around the ankles or around the damaged vein/s
- Skin discolouration
- Itchy skin (see more: Why are Varicose Veins Itchy)
Vulva varicose veins
Vulva Varicosities are varicose veins on the outer surface of the vulva. The vulva is home to many small and large blood vessels. During pregnancy, increased blood flow and pressure on the genitals can cause varicose veins.
It is estimated that between 4 per cent and 10 per cent of pregnant women will develop Vulva Varicosities. However, not all women will be able to see them. Some women have visible veins around the vulva or inner thigh. Yet others will only experience symptoms:
- Feelings of heaviness, pressure or pain in the vulva.
- Any pain in the vulva that worsens after standing, sexual activity, or physical activity.
- Swelling or itchiness around the vulva.
Pelvic varicose veins
Pelvic Congestion Syndrome, also known as Ovarian Vein Reflux, is most common in women who have been pregnant. When varicose veins develop in the pelvis, they often cannot be seen, and the condition can be difficult to diagnose. In some women, the pain is misunderstood for endometriosis, period cramps, fibroids, uterine prolapse, or urinary incontinence.
Generally, those with a higher risk of developing pelvic congestion syndrome are those who have a family history of varicose veins. Although it is not a life-threatening condition, it does have the potential to significantly impact your quality of life. Symptoms such as chronic pain can lead to a decrease in physical activity, loss of function, and depression.
Aside from pain, some symptoms of pelvic congestion syndrome are:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge.
- Tenderness around the abdomen.
- Irritable bowel symptoms.
- Swelling in the vagina or vulva.
- Urinary symptoms such as a need to go to the toilet frequently and urge incontinence
- Enlarged and distorted veins on the buttocks, external genitals (vulva), or thighs
Haemorrhoids (swollen veins surrounding the anus) are common during the second or third trimester. Increased pressure in the rectal veins occurs due to an enlarged uterus and increased blood flow to support a growing baby.
- External haemorrhoids cause Itching or irritation in your anal region, pain or discomfort, swelling around your anus, and bleeding.
- Internal haemorrhoids usually can’t be seen or felt, but significant straining during bowel movements may result in bloody stools or even a haemorrhoid popping out of the anus, resulting in pain.
Are there ways to prevent varicose veins caused by pregnancy?
As we mentioned, risk factors like age and family history can increase one’s chances of developing varicose veins. However, a healthy lifestyle can help lessen your chances of developing them. Here are some preventative measures that you can take:
- Eat a balanced diet. Too much salt and processed foods increase blood pressure, and blood pressure furthers the risk of varicose veins. So, try incorporating some of these vein-friendly foods into your diet.
- Keep active. It may get increasingly difficult to move around with a growing belly. However, physical activity during pregnancy offers many benefits such as reduced back pain, an energy boost, quality sleep, proper blood circulation, and stronger muscles. Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be intense. Try low-impact workouts such as walking or yoga.
- Elevate your legs. Lying down with your legs elevated helps promote blood circulation. At the end of the day or during rest periods, make it a habit to position your feet above heart level. Instead of lying flat, place your feet on a pillow or rest your legs up against a wall.
- Wear compression stockings. Compression stockings are great for pregnancy and post-pregnancy care. They’ll help prevent blood pooling which typically happens in the leg area. When blood properly circulates, the body experiences several benefits, including lessened body pain.
How to manage varicose veins?
Remember, even if you do everything right, you can still get varicose veins during pregnancy. There may be some overlap in prevention and management strategies for varicose veins as many things you can do to prevent them will also help relieve the symptoms. Here are some additional suggestions for dealing with the discomfort or pain associated with leg veins:
- Wear compression stockings for varicose veins during pregnancy
- Sleep on your left side to take the pressure off your inferior vena cava
- Avoid activities that place undue pressure on your veins
- Do light exercises such as walking, stretching and a selection of yoga poses
Will varicose veins go away eventually?
In a majority of women, varicose veins developed during pregnancy will start to recede and completely disappear within three months. However, in some cases, the varicose veins might persist, and in these cases, it is ideal to consult a vascular specialist who will assess the veins and offer suitable treatment options.
Can I treat varicose veins during pregnancy?
During pregnancy, it is best to avoid undergoing surgery and most medical procedures because of your increased risk. So, it’s always recommended to seek professional advice on ways to manage symptoms.
However, if you’re looking to treat your varicose veins post-pregnancy, The Vein Institute offers several minimally invasive and highly effective treatment options without surgery.
Enjoy a walk-in walk-out treatment experience with our highly skilled team of vein specialists here at The Vein Institute.
Book your consultation with us by giving us a call at 13 VEINS (13 83467) or by filling out this form.