During pregnancy, many changes are occurring in the body, including changes in blood flow. Your blood volume increases, while the rate at which flood flows from your legs will decrease, which can put pressure on the veins. This can cause unwanted varicose veins to appear, which are enlarged veins that can appear on the legs and buttocks. Hormonal changes can also lead to varicose veins as progestin levels increase, dilating the veins. While varicose veins are generally harmless, they can be uncomfortable and even itchy.
What Causes Varicose Veins During Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, more blood is produced in the body and as the uterus grows, pressure is put on the inferior vena cava, the largest vein in your body. These combined factors make it difficult for blood to flow properly in the legs, ankles, and feet. Later in pregnancy, as your growing stomach places pressure on the genital region, varicose veins can also develop on the buttocks, vagina, and vulva.
Although these veins do not usually cause pain, they can be itchy or painful for some women. Swelling in the legs and ankles, muscle cramps at night, and a heavy sensation in the legs are other possible symptoms. Elevating your legs, wearing flat shoes, avoiding long periods of standing, and maintaining a healthy diet can often ease these uncomfortable symptoms. If you have severe pain, swelling, or developing sores, please inform your doctor immediately.
Varicose veins and their symptoms often improve after pregnancy, especially those on the vagina or vulva, but severe varicose veins may require treatment. According to USA Vein Clinics, women should wait until they are finished breastfeeding before they can safely receive varicose vein treatment.
Varicose Vein Study
Pregnancy is a risk factor for varicose veins, which may become symptomatic anytime during the antepartum or postpartum period. A study involving 611 consecutively delivered women found that 22 percent reported varicose veins prior to that pregnancy. The risk was increased with increasing age, parity and family history. Twenty-eight percent of the 474 women who had no history of varicosities developed them during that pregnancy. In another study evaluating the effectiveness of compression stockings during pregnancy, the authors noted that 50 percent of the 42 women enrolled developed emergent superficial varicose veins during the pregnancy. Although compression stockings did not prevent varicose veins, more women in the treated group reported improvement in symptoms; thus, they can be useful for patient comfort.
Tips to Prevent Varicose Veins
Prolonged standing may worsen varicose veins but there are no clear evidence-based guidelines available that have proven ways to prevent varicose veins.
Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!