Varicose veins are a common, but uncomfortable, pregnancy ailment.They usually go away again within a year but in the meantime, find out how you can best manage the discomfort they cause.
What are varicose veins
Varicose veins develop when the vein stops sending your blood towards your heart and allow the blood to flow back. 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.
Who is likely to get varicose veins when pregnant
The combination of increased blood supply, and the potential for the growing uterus to interfere with the proper functioning of some veins, plus hormonal changes making the vein walls softer, means varicose veins are a common pregnancy complaint. Many pregnant people suffer from varicose veins however if you have a family history and / or are on your feet a lot of the day, you have an increased chance of developing them.
Varicose vein symptoms
Usually you can see the affected veins in your leg as it will bulge under your skin. You may also notice that your legs or vulva is aching especially after standing or sitting for extended periods. Your legs may feel heavy and tired and you may suffer from night time cramps or even be a bit itchy.
Helping reduce the symptoms
Following these measures may help keep your veins from swelling as much.
- Wear medical support hose; many types are available. Ask your doctor or Lead Maternity Caregiver (LMC) 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 and but conversely don’t sit in the same position for an extended period.
- Lie on your left 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, especially in the pool, is ideal.
- Keep your bowels regular especially since haemorrhoids are actually varicose veins.
- Cold packs may help with the discomfort
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.
When to seek help
When you first notice the veins or are experiencing some discomfort, let your LMC or doctor know. Also let them know if the vein becomes hot and firm, you are really uncomfortable, your leg swells, or the veins bleed.