Varicose veins can occur in almost anyone; in fact, they affect up to 35% of Americans. Varicose veins— large, bulging veins in the legs that can cause pain, itching and swelling—can be more likely to occur during pregnancy.
As progesterone causes blood to pool in the lower body, and a growing uterus compresses some of the blood flow returning to the heart, varicose veins can result. Each subsequent pregnancy increases the risk of developing swollen veins, and women with a family history are more susceptible.
Prevention and Self-Treatment
There are some steps women can take to reduce the risk of developing varicose veins during pregnancy (or any other time). If you’ve already developed varicose veins, the same tips apply for easing symptoms such as pain, aching and itchiness.
Reducing the amount of time standing is especially important. Wear knee-high compression stockings, especially if you can’t avoid standing, to reduce painful symptoms. Some women find a full-length, maternity compression hose to be especially helpful.
Anything that relieves pressure and improves blood flow is helpful, including laying on your side when sleeping, keeping your legs elevated whenever possible and avoiding crossing your legs. Light exercise helps improve blood flow as well. Avoid wearing high heels; flat shoes engage your calf muscles to promote better circulation. The muscle action of walking squeezes the veins to return blood to the heart.
The appearance and symptoms of varicose veins caused by pregnancy typically improve within about six weeks of delivery. They’re less likely to fully resolve, though, in women who are overweight, have a family history, stand for long periods or already had varicose veins before pregnancy. And subsequent pregnancies can bring their return.
If symptoms don’t ease after pregnancy, consider o utpatient treatment of the varicose veins. In ablation therapy, a catheter is used to heat the vein, causing it to shrink and disappear. Sclerotherpy uses a small needle to inject a chemical that causes the vein to harmlessly clot and disappear.
The vascular surgeons at Muskegon Surgical Associates are skilled at the latest techniques for treating varicose veins and can recommend the right course of treatment for you. Contact us to learn more and schedule a consultation.
Muskegon Surgical Associates