Posted by Kristyn Richner on Aug. 10, 2017

Varicose during pregnancy are very common. Having a family history of varicose veins is a large contributing factor for both men and women. However, for women during pregnancy, the main reason they occur is because of hormonal changes. This is why women can begin to develop new varicose veins even in the very early stages of pregnancy, as early as six weeks. As pregnancy progresses, the growing uterus places increased pressure on the main vein in your abdomen, making it more difficult for blood to return to the heart. The body’s blood volume increases by 50% during pregnancy, which also places more pressure on the veins. And finally, any extra weight gained during pregnancy can also increase the risk of developing varicose veins.

The appearance of these veins can vary as well. The varicose veins can be small, thin, red or purple spider veins, or they can be larger bulging veins. They can also appear in more places than just the legs.  Varicose veins can also occur in the vulva and rectum (hemorrhoids).

While these veins may be uncomfortable or unsightly, they are not likely to pose as significant risk to you or your baby during pregnancy.  It is important to take all steps possible to manage them, keep them from getting worse, and minimize the risk of a rare blood clot that can occur.

The varicose veins may even improve after you deliver, but if they do continue to bother you after delivery, you should talk to your doctor.

What can you do to prevent or at least minimize varicose veins during pregnancy?

·         Wear compression stockings. Graduated-compression stockings, with a strength of 20-30mmHg, work best (they come in maternity as well). These stockings are available from most medical supply stores. They're tighter at the ankle and get looser as they go up the leg, making it easier for blood to flow back to your heart. As a result, they help prevent swelling and may keep your varicose veins from getting worse. You can typically obtain these without a prescription, but your insurance may cover a portion of the cost if you get a prescription for them from your doctor.

·         Exercise every day. Even getting up from your desk and walking around the office for 5 minutes can help improve circulation. Try not to sit or stand in one position for longer than 1 hour without moving around.

·         Elevate your legs. Elevating your feet and legs above the level of your heart is easier said than done, but important to do whenever possible. This will also help with any swelling in the legs and feet. 

·         Maintain a heathy weight. Try to stay within your recommended range, for your stage of pregnancy.

·         Avoid constipation. Be sure to drink plenty of water, get extra fiber in your diet preferably from fresh fruits and vegetables, and stay active to prevent hemorrhoids. If needed, as your doctor about a stool softener.