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Pregnancy and Varicose Veins: Is There a Link?

Varicose veins are those twisting ropes that often bulge above the surface of the skin. In addition to their unsightly appearance, varicose veins can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like aching and swelling of the lower legs and skin irritation. Many of the changes that occur during pregnancy make you especially vulnerable to the formation of varicose veins and their accompanying discomfort.

Why Varicose Veins Occur

The veins in the lower leg have the difficult job of moving blood against the force of gravity, up the legs and torso to the heart. Tiny one-way valves inside those veins that normally keep blood flowing in an upward direction can wear out or become damaged from increased pressure. This condition, known as venous insufficiency, results in blood pooling back into those veins, causing them to swell and become varicose.

Why Varicose Veins Occur during Pregnancy

Throughout that nine months of pregnancy, changes that occur in your body can also increase your risk of damaging the valves inside the veins of the lower leg. First, hormonal changes can increase the risk of blood pooling in those lower vessels. Increased blood flow to support the growing fetus can also increase pressure inside the veins and cause them to swell. Finally, the expanding uterus puts additional pressure on lower leg veins, increasing the risk of varicose veins.

Varicose Vein Prevention

There are steps you can take to lower your risk of varicose veins during pregnancy:

Elevate your legs above your heart whenever possible to make blood flow back to the heart easier on the body
Eat a high fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids to keep constipation at bay, which can increase your risk for both varicose veins and hemorrhoids (varicose veins around the rectum)
Avoid long periods of sitting or standing – try to change your position frequently to avoid undue stress on your leg veins
Indulge in daily physical activity like walking to improve your circulation
Wear support hose or compression stockings to encourage healthy circulation in your feet and lower legs

Varicose Vein Treatment

Despite your best efforts, you may find a varicose vein or two rear their ugly heads during that nine months. The good news is that many varicose veins that develop during pregnancy will resolve on their own once your baby arrives. Those that don’t resolve can be easily treated through minimally-invasive procedures that involve little or no discomfort or downtime.

Varicose veins may be an inevitable byproduct of pregnancy, but they are not something you have to suffer with forever. To learn more about your options in varicose vein treatment, contact Carolina Vein Associates at 704-684-4511.