Varicose Veins and Pregnancy

“The extra volume of blood produced during pregnancy is essential to support you and your baby,” says ob/gyn Steven R. Berkman, M.D., FACOG, FACS. “However, it puts extra pressure on your blood vessels, especially the veins in your legs, which have to work against gravity to push all that extra blood back up to your heart. Add to that the pressure your burgeoning uterus puts on your pelvic blood vessels, and the vessel-relaxing effects of the extra progesterone your body is producing, and you have the perfect recipe for varicose veins.”

“The good news,” continues Dr. Berkman, “is that while you may not like the way varicose veins look, they’re unlikely to put either you or your baby at any risk. In most cases, if you didn’t have them before you got pregnant, your varicose veins shrink or disappear altogether within a few months after you give birth. If you have another baby, though, your varicose veins are likely to reappear.”

If the veins don’t go away after the baby has arrived, you can consider having them medically treated or surgically removed then — but not during pregnancy.

Here are a few tips to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy:

• Keep your blood circulating.
Get off your feet whenever you can, and keep your legs elevated when sitting. When standing, put one foot on a low stool and alternate legs. Flex your ankles every so often, and break the habit of sitting with your legs crossed. Exercise helps prevent varicose veins. Take a walk each day or do some other form of circulationincreasing exercises.

• Keep your weight gain down during pregnancy.
Extra weight increases the demands on your already overworked circulatory system.

• Get a daily dose of vitamin C.
Vitamin C as part of a balanced diet helps keep veins healthy.

• Sleep on your left side.
Avoid pressure on your main blood vessels, and keep circulation going strong.

• Wear clothes that don’t bind.
Wear clothes that fit comfortably, especially around the tops of your legs. Don’t wear tight belts or socks with tight elastic tops, and stay away from tightfitting shoes and high heels.

• Support hose.
Perhaps not the most attractive look, but support hose can counteract the downward pressure of your belly and give the veins in your legs a little extra upward push.

• Don’t strain.
Heavy lifting or straining can add to vein visibility.