Varicose veins occur to some degree in most pregnant women. There appears to be an inherited predisposition to varicose veins that can be made more severe by pregnancy, increased age and pressure caused by standing for long periods of time.
Varicose veins are blood vessels that are engorged with blood. They occur primarily in the legs but may also be present in the vulva and rectum. The change in blood flow and pressure from the uterus can make varicose worse, which causes discomfort.
In most instances, varicose veins become more noticeable and more painful as pregnancy progresses. With increasing weight (especially if you spend a lot of time standing), they may worsen.
Symptoms vary. For some, the main symptom is a blemish or purple-blue spot on the legs with little or no discomfort, except perhaps in the evening. Other women have bulging veins that require elevation at the end of the day.
Following these measures may help keep your veins from swelling as much.
- Wear medical support hose; may types are available. Ask your doctor for a recommendation.
- Wear clothing that doesn’t restrict circulation at the knee or the groin.
- Spend as little time on your feet as possible. Lie on your side or elevate your legs when possible. This enables veins to drain more easily.
- Wear flat shoes when you can.
- Don’t cross your legs. It cuts off circulation and can make problems worse.
- The type of exercise you choose may compound the problem. High impact exercise, such as step aerobics or jogging, can cause trauma to the veins. Low-impact exercises, such as biking, prenatal yoga or using an elliptical trainer, may be a better choice.
Following pregnancy, swelling in the veins should go down, but varicose veins probably won’t disappear altogether. Various methods including laser treatment, injection and surgery, can get rid of these veins, the surgery is called vein stripping. It would be unusual to operate on varicose veins during pregnancy, although it is a treatment to consider when you are not pregnant.