Varicose veins are the large, swollen blood vessels found in the legs but can also show up almost anywhere in your lower body during pregnancy.
When the veins bulge above the skin they create distinctive purplish lumps that look alarming but are fairly common, affecting approximately 20% of pregnant women. They are different from spider veins or visible veins which are smaller and do not bulge.
Varicose veins can develop anytime during pregnancy, but they tend to get larger and more pronounced as your pregnancy progresses. After birth, some of the varicosities may recede but you should still get a vein evaluation done by a specialist.
The extra volume of blood you produce during pregnancy puts extra pressure on your blood vessels, especially the veins in the legs. The veins in your legs have to work against gravity to push all the extra blood back to your heart, and during pregnancy there is extra pressure on your pelvic vein. This extra blood and pressure can cause the valves in the veins to malfunction thus causing varicose veins.
While pregnant there are several things you can do to minimize varicose veins and keep them under control. You can get off your feet whenever possible and elevate your legs, exercise and do not wear tight-fitting clothing. Also, be mindful of your weight gain and wear compression stockings to reduce swelling. There are no surefire ways to prevent varicose veins but the above-mentioned tips may help the situation.
Of all the risk factors for varicose veins disease, pregnancy is one of the highest risk factors for chronic venous insufficiency. Others include hereditary factors, and standing on feet for long periods of time, ie stewardess, nurse, waiters, cashiers. If you have all three risk factors then the relative risk is very high.
Those with varicose veins during pregnancy routinely need ultrasounds during pregnancy to rule out problems with large veins and stagnant flow that can occur and afflict those patients with vein disease. Thrombophlebitis and blood clots can occur in veins and can be heightened during pregnancy. An ultrasound can rule these out and predicate a treatment algorithm.
If your varicose veins persist after your pregnancy you should schedule a vein evaluation and ultrasound to check for permanent vein damage. Following the evaluation, the doctor can make a treatment plan to erase those painful, bulging, and unsightly varicose veins.