Pregnancy and Varicose Veins
A pregnancy that causes varicose veins
to appear or worsen is a very common situation. These varicosities most often are seen in the legs but can also occur in the vulva or even rectally as hemorrhoids.
Causes of Varicose Veins with Pregnancy
Conditions that cause varicose veins to appear or worsen include:
- • Varicose veins in the legs before becoming pregnant will almost surely worsen as the pregnancy proceeds
- • Increased age of the mother
- • Prior pregnancies- with each pregnancy a woman is obviously older and there is a greater chance for veins to form
- • An increase in the blood volume of the mother, to accommodate the uterus and the growing baby
- • Increased levels of certain hormones, such as progestin, which loosen or relax the veins just as they loosen or relax the pelvis in anticipation of delivery
- • The constantly increasing weight of the baby and uterus which adds more pressure to the veins of the legs
- • A family history of varicose veins
We like to tell patients a few simple rules for pregnancy related varicose and spider veins
- 1. The presence of varicose veins (or worsening of spider veins) with pregnancy is not a danger to the baby
- 2. Veins present before conception will still be there after your delivery
- 3. Many of the veins that form during a pregnancy will significantly reduce after your delivery. This is most apparent in the first few days as the hormones return to normal levels, the blood volume returns to its normal level, and the weight and pressure of the baby and uterus is removed.
- 4. Varicose veins still present in the legs or vulva at one or two months after a delivery will most likely to remain, but can be treated for either cosmetic or symptomatic relief.
Preventing Varicose Veins with Pregnancy
To try to prevent varicose veins from forming, the Shulman Vein and Laser Center doctors have a few suggestions:
- • Sleeping on your left side will help reduce the pressure on the largest vein in the abdomen, the inferior vena cava, and make it easier for blood to travel back to the heart
- • Use support stockings during the pregnancy- while its not documented to prevent veins from forming or worsening compression hose will often give you symptomatic relief
- • Elevate the legs – while textbooks suggest keeping your heals above the heart, that can be difficult. We often suggest heals above the hips so if you were to pour water on your knees it would flow towards the body, not towards the feet
- • Remain active during the pregnancy as leg muscle contractions while walking or exercising will help the return of blood from the legs
- • Be active and walk as soon as possible after your delivery to reduce the chances of developing blood clots in the legs
- • Stool softeners can reduce constipation and lessen the chance of developing hemorrhoids
- • Try not to put on to much extra weight as it will only add more pressure to the veins in the legs and vulva
In the past, doctors used to tell women to ‘finish having all your babies and then have your varicose veins treated’. We think this old fashioned male chauvinism is foolish. Treating veins before they worsen will avoid the suffering, symptoms and potential complications that can occur with future pregnancies. Also with our modern and minimally invasive vein treatments, there is no reason to delay treatment and suffer further.Dr.’s Martin L. Shulman M.D. and Dr. Lee G. Shulman M.D. like to say that varicose veins are the "ideal family guilt disease" - you can blame your parents (more often fathers then mothers) for giving you the genetics to develop varicose veins, and blame your children and the pregnancies for causing the veins to worsen!!