My Pregnancy is Causing Varicose Veins!

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Pregnancy is an exciting time, full of surprises and changes. At Capitol Vein & Laser Centers, we see many pregnant patients who are experiencing some unexpected changes in their legs and other areas. According to the American College of Phlebology, "pregnancy causes increases in hormone levels and blood volume which in turn cause veins to enlarge. In addition, the enlarged uterus causes increased pressure on the veins." These changes can result in the development of varicose veins

See our Youtube video here to learn more about your varicose veins during pregnancy.

Common Leg Health Problems During Pregnancy

Swollen feet, tired aching legs, and a feeling of heaviness in the legs are among everyday symptoms that may be experienced as a result of varicose veins. These symptoms are more frequent when the woman:

  • has a history of varicose veins,
  • has a history of venous disease within her family,
  • was already experiencing a venous condition prior to the pregnancy,
  • sits or stands for prolonged periods of time,
  • does not exercise regularly during the pregnancy, or
  • has had more than one pregnancy.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pregnancy

Women who are pregnant are at a high risk for the development of a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a complication of varicose veins. Blood clots may form in varicose veins due to sluggish blood flow and, if they reach the deep veins, the clot can cause more significant pain and damage. The risk of DVT continues during the post partum period, until the woman’s hormonal levels return to their pre-pregnancy state.

Vaginal Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

Some women, especially those who have had prior pregnancies, develop large, tender vulvar varicose veins. Vulvar varicosities tend to get worse with each successive pregnancy and as you get older. The cause is usually due to some degree of pelvic vein reflux (backflow) exacerbated by the elevated estrogen and progesterone that occurs during pregnancy. Treatment options are limited during the pregnancy, though many of the vaginal varicose veins will regress soon after delivery.

Swollen vulva and leg veins often occur together and can be quite uncomfortable for the expectant mother, worsening with each trimester. For management and comfort, we recommend an evaluation and venous ultrasound to assess for venous insufficiency. This will allow us to understand the source of your bulging veins and better manage your care during the remainder of your pregnancy. We recommend the V2 Supporter to help ease discomfort from vulvar varicosities. The vulvar supporter can also help relieve other symptoms common during pregnancy including painful or swollen labia and perineum pressure.

How to Keep Your Legs Healthy During Pregnancy

  • Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Exercise frequently and moderately.
  • Wear medical grade support/compression hose to help promote circulation.
  • Elevate your legs when possible, especially at night.
  • Do not spend extended periods of time in the heat (sunbathing, hot baths, sauna).

What You Can Do Post-Pregnancy

Though a vein specialist can provide recommendations on how to relieve your varicose vein symptoms during pregnancy, they should not provide treatment until after the baby is delivered. Even if the patient plans to have another baby, Drs. McNeill and Rosenberg advise seeking an evaluation and treatment between pregnancies. A vein specialist can evaluate the leg with duplex ultrasound and will likely use the Closure Procedure (VNUS Closure) or micro-phlebectomy as treatment. Both are in-office procedures done under local anesthesia, and most patients can return to normal activity the same day.

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