Varicose veins are swollen, bulging veins that often occur in people’s legs and may cause cramps, heaviness, or pain. They are caused when blood is prevented from flowing normally. When your veins are fighting against gravity to get blood from your feet back to your heart, the valves that keep the blood flowing in only one direction can become weak. These weak valves allow some blood to seep back down the vein, causing pooling; this pooling can result in varicose veins. When a woman is pregnant, there is an increased amount of blood in her vascular system, which can increase the likelihood of varicose veins.
A common cause for varicose veins is weight gain. Added weight means the veins need to work harder to pump the already increased flow of blood, and when combined with the increased levels of progesterone in pregnant women, the blood vessels have a hard time keeping up. Fluid retention is a common part of pregnancy and it contributes to overall weight as well as general pressure on the internal organs and skin. This pressure can constrict the blood vessels, reducing their efficiency and causing them to back up. As the fetus grows, more pressure is exerted on the uterus walls and the skin cells stretch out. As a result, varicose and spider veins may develop in the lower abdominal regions in addition to the legs of a pregnant woman.
There are ways to reduce or prevent the onset of varicose veins, however. Regular, non-strenuous exercise helps maintain blood flow. Maintaining a healthy weight will also reduce the appearance. Many women like to cross their legs while sitting, but this constricts blood flow and can contribute to varicose veins. Elevate your legs as close to heart level as possible to decrease the workload on the veins returning blood to the heart. Alternate between sitting and standing, or go for a short walk to stretch your legs throughout the day. While pregnant, wearing compression socks can also help.
If the above methods are not enough to allay varicose veins, you may want to consider varicose vein treatment. It is not recommended to treat varicose or spider veins during pregnancy, partly because most of them will subside after birth when blood flow returns to normal and the extra pressures go away. If they do not subside on their own, contact the vein specialists at Premier Vein to schedule a consultation and discuss options for varicose vein treatment.