Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

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Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Obstetrician and Gynaecologist )
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Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

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Pregnancy is a wonderful phase the health issues that you may experience during the nine months of pregnancy could be troublesome for you. Such issues can range from minor inconveniences to even fatal complications. One such health problem that your body might develop during pregnancy is varicose veins. Varicose veins can be a serious issue or a minor inconvenience depending on the situation. If you’re pregnant, read on to know about varicose veins, why do they develop during pregnancy, its symptoms and more.

What are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins, which are also called varicosities or varicoses, refer to bulged, dilated, blood-filled and painful veins that may appear on the surface of your skin. Legs and feet are the most likely body parts to have varicose veins. Many women get varicose veins during pregnancy, but they may also appear due to menopause, old age, standing for extended periods of time, obesity and heredity.

What are Varicose Veins?

When the varicose veins may appear will depend on how her veins are working. Blood veins have valves that stop blood from flowing backwards. When these valves become weaker, and your blood does not get pumped back to the heart properly. It may get collected, especially in the lower parts of your body, farthest from the heart.

Why Do Pregnant Women Develop Varicose Veins?

There are many changes taking place at once in a pregnant woman’s body. The increased levels of the hormone progesterone relax the wall of your veins, causing the valves to weaken. Also, there is an increased amount of blood in your body to be passed on to the baby via the placenta.

The burden of the increased amount of blood, the baby and the placenta bear down on your lower body. It puts excessive pressure on certain parts such as legs and genitals, where you may get varicose veins. Particularly, the inferior vena cava that runs through the right-hand-side of your body is under a lot of pressure. This vein supplies blood from your lower limbs back to your heart.

What are the Symptoms of Varicose Veins in Pregnancy?

Symptoms of varicose veins during pregnancy are just slightly different from varicose veins developed otherwise. Though just the sight of swollen, blood-filled veins may be a sign of varicose veins, other common symptoms are:

  • Swollen blue and purple veins near the surface of the skin
  • Soreness, itchiness, or burning sensation around affected veins
  • Tired and achy legs
  • Discomfort and bulge in vulva, labia, rectum, and perineum
  • Swollen feet due to fluid accumulation
  • Muscular cramps
  • Skin diseases such as eczema and ulcers (might develop in extreme cases)
  • Spider veins clusters of tiny blood vessels on the surface of the skin (both spider and varicose veins appear in similar cases, but they signify different problems)
  • Superficial blood clots in veins, also known as phlebitis (blood clots associated with varicose veins during pregnancy must be differentiated from deep vein thrombosis or DVT and pulmonary embolism, which are much more dangerous)

What Causes Varicose Veins While Pregnant?

Not every pregnant woman will develop varicose veins; certain factors make pregnant women prone to getting varicose veins. And the reasons for varicose veins may vary from woman to woman.

The main reason why pregnant women get varicose veins is the burden their pelvic region and lower limbs experience due to the weight of their uterus, with vein-relaxing hormones worsening the situation. While these things happen in every pregnant woman’s body, there are particular cases where weak valves or weak vein walls might occur, causing varicose veins.

You are more likely to get varicose veins if you have had the same problem during previous pregnancies. Also, carrying multiple babies, being obese or standing for extended periods of time adds to the burden on your lower body, making you more prone to this condition.

A family history of varicosities might also cause them to come up during your pregnancy. Varicosities also tend to get worse with successive pregnancies. Veins become weaker and weaker due to ageing as well as the pressure exerted on them before.

How Do I Prevent Varicose Veins?

Taking measures to prevent varicosities can save you a lot of trouble later. Following practices can help prevention:

1. Sleep on Your Left Side

As mentioned before, the inferior vena cava that carries blood from your limbs is situated on the right-hand-side of your body. Sleeping on your left can ease up the pressure and help balance the blood flow. Also, it is desirable that you change positions throughout the day when sleeping.

2. Exercise

Exercising increases blood flow and does not let the blood to collect. Moderate exercise during pregnancy is safe and actually recommended by experts. The experts at American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advise that regular, moderate exercise for 30 minutes or more keeps blood flow healthy. Pelvic floor exercises are most helpful in preventing varicosities, though regular brisk walks are also good.

3. Keeping Your Legs Elevated

Doing this helps weak veins improve blood circulation in your lower body. It is advised that you sit down and rest your legs every three hours and never cross your legs. Even while standing, keep shifting your weight from one leg to the other.

4. Manage the Burden on Your Body

Gaining weight is important to support the foetus. However, weight gain during pregnancy also exerts excessive pressure on your veins. You should check with your doctor to know how much weight would be good for both you and your baby. To keep added pressure from fluid retention at bay, also consider decreasing your salt intake.

5. Keep a Check on Constipation

Constipation increases the chances of varicosities and can also cause haemorrhoids. Drinking lots of water, having a low-salt diet and eating high-fibre foods can help keep constipation at bay.

6. Use Compression Stockings

It’s recommended to use special stockings for varicose veins in pregnancy. Graduated compression stockings are tight towards the feet and loose towards the thighs, which helps in maintaining the blood circulation upward. They are helpful in the prevention of varicosities as well as providing relief from them.

It is advisable that you consult your doctor before using special compression stockings, as they may totally restrict blood flow to lower legs, especially if you are obese. It is important to make sure that they make for a comfortable fit and keep your feet snug.

As a prevention measure, one can also use a regular but tighter pantyhose. For genital varicoses, tight-fitting biking shorts are helpful. Make sure you avoid tight clothing on the waist though.

Even in the case of serious varicosities, compression stockings might not provide a complete cure, but they can stop it from worsening further.

Can Varicose Veins Cause Complications for Pregnant Women?

Sore and painful varicose veins might cause a lot of inconvenience for a pregnant woman, but they do not have any serious repercussions. They do not bring complications in childbirth. Even if a woman develops varicose veins up to her vulva (the vaginal passage), it might bulge and pain, but it does not impact vaginal birth.

There have also been cases of Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) during pregnancy – a serious condition where a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside your body. However, the likelihood is very low. Please note that DVT is not caused due to varicose veins. If you do have DVT, you need immediate treatment as it can otherwise even be fatal.

Apart from that, some women may not get rid of varicose veins even after childbirth, and they might become a permanent ailment.

Does It Affect My Newborn Baby?

No, varicose veins do not affect a newborn. It might be very inconvenient and painful for you when you get varicose veins, but it would neither cause any complications during childbirth nor harm your baby in any way.

Do Varicose Veins Go Away After Pregnancy?

Varicose veins start disappearing after your pregnancy is over. Generally, it happens within three to four months of pregnancy, but in some cases, it might even take longer. If you had a severe case of varicosities, or have had multiple pregnancies or haven’t been careful enough with varicose veins during pregnancy, your veins might not shrink to what they were before you were pregnant.

Even if varicoses disappear after pregnancy, they are likely to appear again during subsequent pregnancies.

In some rare cases, varicose veins become permanent and persist even after the pregnancy is over. In such cases, they are not harmful, but women prefer to get rid of them for aesthetic reasons.

Treating Varicose Veins

For relief and minor treatment of varicose veins in pregnancy, all the points mentioned under preventive tips would also work. You can use some compression stockings, or resort to exercises that are known to improve blood circulation for treating varicose veins. Developing simple habits like elevating your legs, improving your diet, etc. can also prove to be helpful.

You must not go through any surgery while pregnant, especially if injections or incisions are involved. For more detailed advice and treatment, you can visit a phlebologist or vein specialist.

For the permanent treatment of varicose veins, you should wait till you have decided not to have babies anymore. This is because varicoses might appear again with another pregnancy despite extensive treatment.

Treating Varicose Veins

For permanent relief, treatments like endovenous therapy, micro phlebectomy, and sclerotherapy are used. In such treatments, a small incision is made in veins, and they are treated with either laser treatment, heat therapy, or chemicals delivered through injections or fibre devices that are inserted through a small opening made in your vein, which is later closed.

Such treatments are very expensive and require expertise. Side effects may vary according to what kind of treatment you use, but generally include allergic reaction, swelling, clotting, etc.

Home Remedies for Varicose Veins During Gestation

As medical treatments are known to be expensive, you can resort to home remedies to seek relief. Most remedies are effective during as well as after pregnancy. Here are some popular home remedies for varicose veins during pregnancy. Note: The home remedies for Varicose veins given below are not backed by science, hence, you must check with your doctor before trying out any remedy for varicose veins. 

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apply concentrated apple cider vinegar on the affected area and massage gently. Massage your legs regularly every morning and before going to bed. Massaging with apple cider vinegar helps because it is known for its blood-cleansing properties and it also improves blood flow. It can help reduce the pain and swelling in your veins by aiding blood flow and circulation. Remember, while pregnant, if you develop varicose veins and want to use apple cider vinegar, it should be used only for massage. Topical application of apple cider vinegar is okay but is best used after checking with a doctor.

2. Olive Oil

Massaging with olive oil stimulates blood circulation. Massaging with warm oil is always desirable since it can help in reducing itching. Olive oil is also beneficial in combating pigmentation. Mix equal amounts of Vitamin E oil and olive oil for better results.

4. Garlic

Garlic is known for stimulating blood circulation and relieving inflammation. It can also break up the harmful toxins which get accumulated in your veins and at the surface of your skin due to restricted blood flow. Garlic can be used to massage during pregnancy.

For using garlic to relieve varicose veins, you need:

  • Six garlic cloves
  • A clean glass jar
  • Juice of three oranges
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil

Instructions:

  • Slice the garlic cloves, put them in the jar, add orange juice and olive oil and let the mixture sit for 12 hours.
  • Shake well before massaging it onto your veins.
  • Wrap the area with a cotton towel and leave it overnight.
  • This must be repeated daily for good results.

5. Parsley

Parsley is rich in vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and increases collagen production. It helps in repairing and forming new cells.

  • For using parsley for massaging the affected areas, boil a handful of chopped fresh parsley in one cup of water for five minutes.
  • Allow it to cool down and strain out the water.
  • Add one drop rose and marigold essential oil each.
  • Refrigerate it and massage after some minutes using a cotton ball.

Varicose veins are a distressing challenge that many pregnant women confront. It is important for you to be aware of various problems and aspects related to varicose veins for your own safety and your baby’s health.

There is nothing to worry about if you develop varicosities, but even if you find them troublesome, you now have enough knowledge about them to deal with this problem and make the right decision for yourself and your baby.

Disclaimer: The information given in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We urge readers to seek the advice of a physician before trying any home remedy or preventive tips mentioned in the article.
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