Varicose Veins During Pregnancy: Causes, Prevention and Treatments

Varicose veins are veins that have become blocked appear very close to the surface to the skin as blue to purplish spider web like markings or twisted with a characteristic bulge. Varicose veins can appear at any age and for a number of reasons, but are often associated with aging. However, it is not uncommon to develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Many expectant women have questions about varicose veins and pelvic pain during pregnancy. Along with a desire to understand the causes, they also search to find effective ways to prevent them, as well as methodologies employed to treat them once they have appeared.

Causes

Just as not all women will experience pelvic pain during pregnancy, not all women develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Every pregnancy is unique, some women are lucky and breeze through the experience without any physical changes at all, but others will most likely experience some sort of concern over an unfamiliar pain or changes in that may be occurring in the skin’s appearance. Science has discovered a link between pelvic pain during pregnancy and varicose veins during pregnancy and in some cases they believe this is due to Pelvic Venous Congestion Syndrome, a painful condition that results from blood flow being impeded or congested.

Luckily, most occurrences of pelvic pain during pregnancy are simply due to increases in blood volume, anywhere from 20% to 40% more and remaining in the same position for extended periods of time, such as sitting, standing or even laying too long in without adjusting the physical position of the body. Varicose veins can develop as a result of this behavior, but can also simply appear in response to the pressure the extra blood volume exerts.

The peak time for varicose veins to present begins after week 29 when the body experiences a surge of progesterone, a hormone whose production effects veins by relaxing blood vessels, including veins. For some women, this relaxing reduces the veins’ ability to transport blood that is flowing with increased force. These veins then “buckle” under the pressure, experiencing torsion and twisting, resulting in a gnarled appearance, accompanied by bluish and/or purplish tiny, spindly veins that are seen on the surface of the skin.

So, that’s the bad news. The good news is that for most women who develop varicose veins during pregnancy, they will likely fade after giving birth, becoming a distant memory. However, it is important to keep an eye on varicose veins as in some rare instances they can develop clots. If the varicose veins become inflamed, it could be a sign that a clot has formed and should be brought to the attention of a medical practitioner as soon as possible. Under no circumstances should this warning sign be ignored.

Prevention

Clearly there are preventative measures women can take to keep varicose veins from occurring, including the following behaviors:

Increase your vitamin C intake. Vitamin C is an essential element used to produce and repair collagen and elastin, two key components of connective tissue that is employed in repairing and maintaining healthy blood vessels.

Keep moving. Not only will this be good for your heart and the baby’s, it helps keep your blood flowing in a regular cycle. If you are not able to walk around for at least a few minutes every hour, think about taking special pregnancy exercise classes. These classes are designed to keep both mother and baby as healthy as possible while expecting.

Keep your blood flowing. Even if you’re stuck in a sedentary position for work or perhaps on bed rest, there are things you can do to keep your blood from pooling or slowing. For example, if you are stuck in a seated position at work, lift your legs alternately up and down behind your desk while working your feet in circular movements for a few minutes every 15-20 minutes. If you can stand up, then stand and stretch, touching your toes and shaking your hands out above your head. Even doing this for a few moments can help. Even rolling your head around every few minutes can help.

Get rid of restrictive clothing. Having a baby is the best excuse to take a break from your skin tight jeans. Avoid blouses with elastic in the cuffs too. As feet tend to swell, make sure your shoes aren’t too tight. Any area where your clothes are causing restriction can impede blood flow.

Wear support hose. While this advice seems counter to that of ditching tight clothing, it isn’t. These hose are designed to actually help increase blood flow in legs and won’t cinch or pinch like tight clothing.

Sleep on your left side. Sleeping on your left side will help keep blood flowing by keeping weight off of major vessels.

Keep your weight under control. Weight gain during pregnancy is inevitable and healthy, but gaining too much can increase your chances of developing varicose veins.

Avoid straining. Constipation is not uncommon during pregnancy and straining can cause hemorrhoids, which are actually varicose veins. So make sure you are eating a healthy amount of fiber. Also, avoid other types of straining such as that involved in lifting heavy objects.

It may seem like a tall order, but once these steps are worked into the regular routine of pregnancy, they become second nature. While these tips may not prevent all occurrences of varicose veins, they can greatly reduce the chances of acquiring them.

Treatment Options

Even the most diligent efforts may not prevent varicose veins and while most fade after pregnancy, there are those that refuse to budge. For these stubborn varicose veins, there are a number of treatment methods that can be extremely effective. While there are a number of home remedies and treatments, seeking treatment from a medical provider is recommended, but only after (not during) your pregnancy.

Non-invasive treatments include Sclerotherapy, which is most often applied for varicose veins that have the smaller, spindly bluish, purple veins. In this procedure, the area to be treated is numbed and salt water is injected into the veins. This procedure causes the vein to become hard and eventually it will be cleared away by the body as dead tissue.

Laser treatment is one of the most popular options. The procedure is simple and involves several sessions of laser light being pulsed over the veins, which causes them to disappear over time. However, this treatment is only effective for smaller varicose veins.

A more extensive type of treatment is Ablation. During this procedure, a catheter is inserted into the vein, up to the groin. Heat will be passed into the tube, which will burn varicose veins, destroying them. There are two different methods of performing this procedure, one employs the use of a laser while the other harnesses the heat from radiofrequency. Over time, the dead vein will no longer be visible.

Finally, Phlebectomy is the last technique which may be used in combination with ablation. This procedure is used primarily to treat surface veins. A small incision is made and the vein is removed.