Varicose veins are swollen veins near the surface of the skin. It is very common for pregnant women to develop varicose veins during the second trimester of pregnancy. This happens for a number of reasons. First, as the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the pelvic veins, which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins. Hormone changes cause the veins to relax, and the extra volume of blood you produce adds to the pressure in the leg veins, which dilate.
Each pregnancy puts you at greater risk and older mothers are more prone. You’re also more susceptible if a family member has had varicose veins.
Varicose veins most commonly appear on the legs, but they can also appear on the vulva, or as haemorrhoids. On the legs, while they may itch or cause discomfort, they are generally harmless to you and your baby. There is some remote risk that a varicose vein could become inflamed, possibly indicating a blood clot, so be sure to keep your midwife or doctor aware of your condition.
In most cases, varicose veins that develop with pregnancy will often improve dramatically within three months after delivery. If treatment is necessary, this can be delayed until after your baby has been delivered.
There are a few ways to help prevent the development of varicose veins during pregnancy:
Elevate your legs
Raising your legs higher than the level of your heart can help promote circulation. When there’s a chance to rest with your feet up, take it.
Sleep on your left side. This helps avoid pressure on your main pelvic veins.
Monitor your weight
Gaining a large amount of weight in a short period of time is especially hard on your veins.
Compression stockings help prevent the blood from pooling and reduce leg swelling.
Exercise is key in preventing varicose veins. Even just a brisk walk around the block can help your circulation.
If you have any concerns about veins during pregnancy, don’t hesitate to get in touch with SVH.