Varicose veins are a fairly common, although unpleasant occurrence during pregnancy. Are they something to worry about? Short answer, not usually. Barring any underlying conditions, or risk factors, varicose veins will normally disappear within a few months to a year after delivery. If they persist, or are causing pain and swelling, there are several treatment options available which you can view on our website www.sfvvg.com.
What causes varicose veins during pregnancy? Several factors come into play. The main reason is reduced blood flow to the legs from pressure on the large blood vessels in the pelvis from the growing baby. Veins have valves that open and close to keep blood flowing to the heart. Pressure or weakened valves, allows blood to back up and pool in the veins resulting in swelling of the veins.
Another factor is the increased volume of blood. Did you know that a women’s blood volume increases during pregnancy anywhere from 20% and up, with an average of 45%! The extra blood is needed to support the uterus and the growing baby. The extra blood puts extra pressure on the vascular system, making it harder to pump the blood back up to the heart, causing blood to pool and veins to enlarge.
All pregnant women are aware of hormonal changes during pregnancy. But, what you may not know are the reasons for some of the changes. During pregnancy one hormone that is increased is progesterone. Progesterone helps the fertilized egg implant in the uterus to establish pregnancy by thickening the endometrium so it can receive an embryo. Progesterone continues to keep the environment healthy in order to maintain pregnancy. Progesterone also keeps the muscles in the uterus relaxed to prevent contractions. However, progesterone can also weaken vessel walls, causing veins to expand, which increases the chance of developing varicose veins.
Is there anything you can do to prevent varicose veins? Yes, there are some proactive things that you can do every day. These tips will not only be beneficial for lessening the chances of varicose veins, but they are helpful tips for a healthier pregnancy too.
First and most important, exercise! After consulting with your doctor to find out which form of exercise is safe and right for you, try to do some sort of exercise each day. Walking is great as it is good for the valves in your calves, and it gets you outside for fresh air too! Your calf muscles expand and contract when you walk, which encourages your leg valves to open and close. Swimming is also great too, and the buoyancy will feel great!
Watch your weight. It’s important to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy. Remember you have a being growing inside you which requires adequate nutrition. Again, consult with your doctor about what is the appropriate weight gain for you. Excess weight however, is not only hard on the veins in your legs, but it is hard on your other organs and joints as well.
Elevate your legs! When possible, put your legs up and give them a rest. Even when standing, try to have one foot up on a stool and then alternate legs. You can also flex your ankles when you are sitting to keep the blood moving.
Wear compression stockings. Ask your doctor what pressure stocking is best for you, and make sure they fit properly. Compression stockings help with blood flow and if your legs feel tired or ache, they can help alleviate those symptoms.
Avoid high heels. High heels don’t work your calf muscles like flats do, so if you have a choice, go for the flats! Flats tend to tone your calf muscles and encourage blood flow back up to the heart.
Wear loose fitting clothing. Try not to wear clothing that is tight around your waist or upper thighs. It’s important to keep your circulation flowing freely.
Eat healthy! It’s always important to eat a well-balanced diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, fiber to prevent constipation, and vitamins, but it’s even more important when pregnant. Try to limit salt intake too, as salt makes you retain fluid. Always make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, as it is important for the health of your organs and your baby!
If you do everything you can do to prevent varicose veins, but you get them anyway, wait a while after delivery to see if they resolve on their own. Oftentimes they will. But if they don’t, there are several options for you to eliminate them. Consult with a board-certified vascular physician to discuss which treatment would be best for you. Treatment has advanced over the years, and procedures are less invasive than they used to be. Depending on the cause, your treatment may be covered by your insurance. Visit our website at www.sfvvg.com for treatment options.
If you have spider veins, those small blood vessels that can been seen beneath the surface of the skin, you can receive treatment which is done on an outpatient basis and is simple and fairly painless. Sclerotherapy and Laser are two options that we offer that can be very effective at eliminating spider veins. More than one treatment may be needed to completely eliminate them, and because they are cosmetic in nature, the treatment is not covered by insurance.
As we have stated, most varicose veins during pregnancy are harmless, but if you have pain, or redness, swelling, or your skin feels warm to the touch, see a vascular surgeon for evaluation, as you may have an underlying condition that needs attention.
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