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  • Writer's pictureDr Desmond Ooi

The Impact of Pregnancy on Varicose Veins: What Expectant Mothers Need to Know

Pregnancy is a miraculous journey filled with anticipation and joy, but it also brings about various physical changes, including those that affect vein health. One common concern that expectant mothers may face is the development or exacerbation of varicose veins.

Understanding the impact of pregnancy on varicose veins is essential for expectant mothers to navigate this period with awareness and proactive care. We'll delve into the intricacies of how pregnancy influences varicose veins and provide valuable insights for expectant mothers seeking to manage this aspect of their health journey.

The Link Between Pregnancy and Varicose Veins

pregnant woman with leg pain

Varicose veins become more prevalent during pregnancy due to several interconnected factors. Hormonal shifts, notably the increase in progesterone levels, cause the walls of the veins to relax, making them more susceptible to swelling. 

Additionally, as the uterus expands to accommodate the growing fetus, it exerts pressure on the large veins in the pelvic area, impeding the normal flow of blood from the legs back to the heart. This increased pressure exacerbates vein issues, contributing to the development or worsening of varicose veins. Moreover, the overall increase in blood volume during pregnancy places added strain on the veins, further exacerbating the condition.

Identifying Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

Varicose veins are hard to miss. Common symptoms include: 

  • Visible Veins: Veins that are swollen, twisted, and appear blue or dark purple on the legs. 

  • Heaviness: A feeling of heaviness or fullness in the legs, often worsening after long periods of standing or sitting. 

  • Aching Pain: Mild to moderate pain in the legs, which may feel like throbbing or cramping. 

  • Itching: Itching around the affected veins. 

  • Swelling: Swelling in the feet and ankles, especially towards the end of the day. 

  • Skin Changes: Changes in the skin texture around the affected veins, such as thinning, inflammation, or color changes. 

  • Restless Legs: An uncomfortable urge to move the legs, which might occur alongside or independent of visible varicose veins. 

Seek immediate medical attention if the veins cause significant pain or swelling that interferes with your daily activities or if there are any changes in the skin around the veins, such as color changes, sores, or rashes. 

Managing Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

woman with compression stockings on

You don’t have to live with pain and discomfort. Several options exist for treating varicose veins in pregnancy.  

Compression stockings are a simple yet effective treatment involving a tight stocking worn over the affected area. The stocking increases pressure inside the leg and compresses surface-level varicose veins, improving the flow of blood back to the heart. 

Other possible treatments include reducing weight (especially in overweight or obese individuals), spending less time sitting or standing still, and performing daily foot exercises. Regular physical activity helps improve blood flow and strengthen the veins while elevating the legs above the heart level reduces pressure on leg veins.   

Usually, more invasive treatment options aren’t advised until after the pregnancy. 

Postpartum Considerations

Varicose veins often improve within three or four months after birth. However, if you see no improvement in symptoms after six months, consider more invasive treatments, such as: 

  • Sclerotherapy: A procedure where a solution is injected into varicose veins, causing them to collapse and fade. 

In the long term, the management of varicose veins after pregnancy is similar in most individuals. Future pregnancies, however, can increase the risk of the problem recurring. Given that there seems to be a hereditary component to varicose veins, you’re also more likely to get them if your mother or sister had them. 

If you're experiencing discomfort or have concerns about varicose veins, consider consulting with Dr. Desmond Ooi, who will provide guidance and treatment options tailored to your specific needs, ensuring a smoother journey through pregnancy and beyond.

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