Along with swollen ankles, haemorrhoids and hair loss, varicose veins are one of the many less than pleasant side effects of pregnancy. Although usually harmless, they are very common in pregnant women, and like any medical condition, it’s important to keep an eye on them so they do not result in more serious complications.
Inside your veins are tiny valves that open one way, letting the blood through and then closing to prevent the blood flowing backwards. Varicose veins develop when the walls of the veins become stretched and less elastic and the valves weaken. If blood collects in the veins, they can become swollen and enlarged.
During pregnancy, the growing uterus puts extra pressure on your veins, causing varicose veins to develop. The hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy, such as an increased level of the hormone progesterone that dilates the veins, can also contribute to a worsening of existing varicose veins or the development of new ones.
Each pregnancy puts you at greater risk and older mothers are more prone to developing them. Genetics also play a role and if your own mother or grandmothers suffer from varicose veins then you are likely to develop them at some point and pregnancy is often the catalyst. In fact, it’s thought that about 28% of women who didn’t have varicose veins before pregnancy will experience them at some point before birth.
In most cases, varicose veins will not cause any significant problems but towards the end of your pregnancy, it’s common to suffer from insomnia and aching or itching legs due to varicose veins can contribute to this. So, is there anything you can do to prevent pregnancy-related varicose veins and what are your treatment options?
Preventing varicose veins during pregnancy
It’s not usually possible to prevent varicose veins forming, particularly if you are genetically susceptible. However, you can help with the symptoms by trying to limit the time you spend standing and wear compression garments if you find yourself on your feet for longer periods of time due to your job.
Lying on your left side, keeping the legs elevated as much as possible and not crossing them can also help. Regular, light exercise has many pregnancy-related benefits including helping to relieve pressure on the legs and improve blood flow.
There are a number of minimally-invasive treatment options available. You’ll usually be advised to wait till after pregnancy as the appearance of the veins and any associated symptoms can improve greatly after childbirth. However, if your baby is starting to reach important milestones and you’re still suffering, then call 01872 226100 to arrange a consultation at the Cornwall Vein Clinic.