What Effect Does Pregnancy Have on Veins?
Written by Dallas Vein Specialists on September 4, 2014
Developing varicose veins in the legs during pregnancy is common. The reasons why this happens are the following:
- Pregnancy hormones cause the veins and valves to relax and weaken.
- The enlarging uterus puts pressure on the pelvic blood vessels, making it harder for the venous blood to drain from the lower extremities and travel back to the heart.
- The body increases blood volume (by 20 to 40 percent!), so there is more blood in the legs for the veins to contain.
Varicose veins may develop in other areas of the lower body besides the legs, like the vulva and the rectum (which are called hemorrhoids).
Women with a genetic predisposition to varicose veins are likely to see them crop up during pregnancy.
ARE VEINS DURING PREGNANCY A HEALTH CONCERN?
Varicose veins may be uncomfortable, but they are not harmful to the baby. They may cause fatigue, restlessness, cramping and itching in the legs. Symptoms may be so miserable that the pregnant woman may be confined to spending most of her time in bed as the pregnancy progresses.
Pregnancy does slightly raise the risk of a condition called acute thrombophlebitis, or clotting of the varicosities. This causes pain and inflammation in the area of the clotted veins, and if a clot in the deep veins of the leg should also develop, serious complications (e.g., pulmonary embolism) may result.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THEM?
We encourage women with varicose veins who plan to have children to seek treatment before becoming pregnant. We offer minimally invasive vein treatments that can be performed in an easy, in-office procedure with little downtime. If varicose veins occur during pregnancy, we advise women to have the veins treated after delivery and before another pregnancy occurs. Do not postpone treatment if more children are planned, because the varicose vein condition and associated symptoms progress with each pregnancy.
Treatment of the varicose veins during pregnancy is inadvisable and is not done.
To decrease the symptoms of varicose veins while pregnant, we recommend conservative methods, including wearing prescription-grade, graduated compression hose to promote proper circulation and drainage of the blood. The hose should be worn all day, from first thing in the morning until returning to bed at night.
We recommend regular exercise, and elevation of the legs whenever possible. Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time, and avoid gaining too much weight during pregnancy. Avoid constipation, which can cause hemorrhoids.