Why Varicose Veins Develop In Pregnancy
Pregnancy increases the volume of blood in your body, and also slows the blood flow from the legs to the pelvis. This change in circulation is designed to support your growing baby, but unfortunately it can also cause bulging painful veins.
Hormonal fluctuations and heredity also contribute to the formation of varicose and spider veins. If your mother or father had varicose veins, you are more likely to develop them as well.
Treating Leg Veins During Pregnancy: Dos And Dont's
While varicose veins may not be attractive, they don’t pose a significant health risk to you or your baby. They can however cause discomfort, swelling and in worse cases blood clots. It is likely your varicose veins will shrink or disappear after the baby is born and your hormones recover to normal levels, but they often come back with a vengeance during the next pregnancy! Treatments are rarely done during pregnancy. It is safer to manage the varicose vein symptoms with exercise, leg elevation and compression during pregnancy. To prevent worsening veins and have a healthier, happier future pregnancies? Schedule an evaluation and leg circulation ultrasound after your 6 week post-partum checkup.
Improve Blood Flow And Circulation
Keep your blood moving by getting off your feet whenever you can. If you have young children requiring care, consider hiring a babysitter to give you a chance to rest for a few hours.
If you need to stand for an extended period of time, put one foot on a low stool. Alternate your legs to give each one a change of position. Flex your ankles then point your toes to improve blood flow. Elevate your legs on a stool or ottoman whenever you can. If you have a habit of crossing your legs, now is the time to break it. You may lower the risks of spider veins this way as well.
Move Those Legs
One of the key steps to promote healthy veins, blood flow and preventing varicose veins during pregnancy is exercise. Walking is the perfect light exercise to work your calf muscles and promote circulation. If you don’t want to walk, do some other form of low-impact exercise that increases circulation. Swimming, yoga and light stretching are excellent choices, but be sure to consult with your OB/GYN first.
Wear clothing that is loose and comfortable. Avoid tight underwear, belts and socks with tight elastic tops. Footwear should fit appropriately but not be tight or binding. Avoid shoes with flat souls and stiletto heels.
Compression Is Good!
Wearing compression socks consistently is one of the most effective ways to provide support, improve symptoms and prevent worsening veins. Medical grade graduated compression hose provide the best results to assist with circulation and prevent swollen feet, ankles and aching legs.
Talk To A Vein Specialist
To ensure that you don’t develop varicose vein complications during or after your pregnancy, be sure to visit a vascular and vein specialist. Vein specialists are trained in ultrasound diagnostics and venous treatments and will be able to foresee a risk or complication before it becomes serious.
The most likely vein symptoms during pregnancy include: swelling, pain, bleeding or a superficial blood clot in the varicose vein that can cause painful inflammation. You should contact your OB/GYN right away if any of these symptoms occur.
Managing Leg Pain While Pregnant
Along with support hose, there are several other things you can do to help with the discomfort and pain caused by leg veins. During pregnancy, the uterus exerts pressure on the inferior vena cava. This vein is responsible for transporting blood from the legs and feet to the heart. If the vena cava is restricted in some way, blood will pool in the feet and legs, leading to varicose veins. This is why your OB/GYN likely advised you to lie on your left side when resting or sleeping, as it prevents excess pressure on this vein. Drinking plenty of water can also help your body maintain a proper fluid balance.
Other options for managing varicose veins during pregnancy include maintaining the weight recommended by your OB/GYN and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing. If your veins continue to bother you after you have given birth, you would benefit from an ultrasound and evaluation with a Vein Specialist.
Safe Treatment Options After Pregnancy
Although varicose veins that develop during pregnancy often resolve on their own after giving birth, some patients will require treatment. In these cases, we offer treatments for venous disease that are non-surgical and performed in our office in less than an hour.
- Endovenous thermal ablation was the first endovenous minimally invasive alternative to vein stripping. It is the most common method used to treat the cause of varicose veins. The procedure uses thermal radio-frequency energy to close or collapse the unhealthy vein. It is performed in an office setting under local anesthesia with ultrasound guidance.
- VenaSeal is the newest FDA approved treatment for varicose veins that doesn’t require surgery or heat to treat the affected veins. A small IV catheter is inserted into the unhealthy saphenous vein. Through the catheter, a surgical adhesive is injected to seal the affected vein shut. Patients are able to walk out with just a regular bandaid. It’s that simple and minimally invasive.
- Clarivein is a minimally invasive injectable treatment specifically indicated for varicose veins. Unlike VenaSeal, which seals the vein shut, Clarivein uses a medication injected through the vein, creating a chemical reaction that causes the vein to close scar shut. Patients feel no pain and don’t require sedation during this procedure but do need to wear compression after the procedure.
- Ambulatory phlebectomy is used to treat large bulging varicose veins on your legs. It is an office procedure using local anesthesia to numb the area, allowing the problem veins to be removed through micro-incisions in the skin that do not require stitches and heal with minimal scarring.
- Sclerotherapy uses a liquid chemical injected into the spider vein through a tiny needle. The injection causes the tiny vessels to spasm and close down. This is the gold standard treatment for spider veins. Sclerotherapy is done in less than 30 minutes and has no down time. Compression is recommended until the next day.
Dr. Paul McNeill and Dr. Garth Rosenberg of Capitol Vein and Laser Centers each have over 20 years of experience managing and treating venous issues during and after pregnancy. CVL has 9 convenient office locations and accepts most insurance plans. If you have any questions or concerns about the health of your legs, please call our office at 866.695.8346. Our nurses are happy to answer your questions!