Women's Healthcare Topics

I'm Pregnant and Have Varicose Veins, What Can I Do?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Varicose Veins

Many women develop varicose veins during pregnancy. Varicose veins are nothing more than swollen or inflamed veins that often bulge toward the surface of the skin. They may appear as crooked purplish, bluish or dark colored veins in the legs.

While many women will experience no discomfort from varicose veins, others may notice they throb or burn. This is particularly the case for women who work on their feet for long periods of the day.

Who Is At Risk for Varicose Veins

  • Women with multiple pregnancies.

  • Family history of varicose veins.

  • Being overweight or gaining too much weight during pregnancy.

  • Standing or sitting for longer than normal periods of time.

Video: I have varicose veins that are painful, what can I do?

Pregnancy Health Section

Spider Veins

Learn about varicosities and spider veins in pregnancy.

One of the more unpleasant side effects of pregnancy is the development of unattractive spider veins – tiny enlarged blood vessels that appear near the surface of your skin. They may have a spider-like or a sunburst-like appearance with little branches that radiate out from the center. Spider veins commonly appear on the legs, ankles, and sometimes your face.

During pregnancy, you may become one of the unfortunate women with spider veins on your lower extremities (legs and ankles). If other women in your family have had spider veins, you are more likely to develop them. Around 80 to 90 percent of pregnant women with spider veins have a parent who has them, too.

While spider veins are unattractive, they don't cause any discomfort and they usually disappear within three months after you deliver. Spider veins are more of a cosmetic issue, and not anything to worry about.

Spider veins can appear anywhere between the second to fifth month of your pregnancy. Sometimes, they are accompanied by varicose veins – which are swollen veins that are blue or purple that appear on the surface of your skin. Spider veins can also occur alone. Spider veins occur during pregnancy, as a result of the physical changes in your body.

For instance, as your uterus expands during pregnancy, it places pressure on a major blood vessel called the interior vena cava (which transports blood from your lower extremities back to your heart). This, in turn adds pressure to your leg veins. In addition, your blood volume increases by 50 percent during pregnancy, and this places more burden on your blood vessels.

Your elevated hormones also play a role in the development of unattractive spider veins. The increased levels of estrogen and progesterone cause the walls of the blood vessels to relax and expand. The increased pressure of your weight on your leg vessels can also contribute to spider veins.

During pregnancy, you should stay away from surgical treatments and procedures for treating spider veins. Wait until after you have your baby. If your spider veins bother you, there are some preventative measures that you can take to keep them from getting worse.

Many experts and doctors agree that wearing graduated medical compression stockings are helpful. While not exactly fashionable, these stockings are helpful. It's also important for you to avoid sitting or standing for too long, and keep your legs elevated as much as possible. Make sure that you get regular exercise in your daily life. A brisk walk may help improve blood circulation, and it strengthens your leg muscles, as well as helps stabilizes your blood veins. Working out may also prevent spider veins from developing. Be patient. Spider veins typically improve in appearance within four months after you give birth.

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Fortunately you can take steps to minimize the severity of varicose veins during pregnancy. Here are some simple steps:

  • Be sure to gain an appropriate amount of weight. Carrying too much weight can contribute to varicose veins.

  • Exercise regularly to help promote your circulation and decrease the risk of blood pooling in your veins.

  • When possible elevate your legs. This is important whether you are at work at your desk or lying down at night.

  • Avoid standing or sitting still for long periods of time. Take frequent breaks to stretch while at your desk and shift your weight while standing. This can help decrease the amount of pressure on your legs and help keep your circulation moving. Wiggle your toes regularly and flex your muscles to also promote better circulation in your legs.

  • Buy pregnancy support hose that provide graduated compression. This will not only help reduce bulging of the veins but will also help reduce any swelling you experience in your extremities during pregnancy. You can get these online or from a medical supply store or pharmacy. These stockings unlike normal pantyhose are quite thick and help maintain blood circulation. They can also help prevent blood from pooling in your legs if you put them on first thing in the morning.

Will Varicose Veins Go Away?

For many women varicose veins become much less severe after pregnancy. For others they may find they are still uncomfortable.. A small number of women are more at risk for developing blood clots in their veins. This condition should be monitored by a doctor. In some cases a clot may need to be treated.

If you do find your varicose veins are problematic after delivery, you can consult with a qualified surgeon to help decide the best course of treatment. Many veins can be minimized or eliminated using modern treatment methods. If you do decide to have your veins treated you should probably wait until after you are done having children, otherwise you may develop new varicose veins in subsequent pregnancies.


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