Pregnancy: Varicose Veins
Causes And Treatment For Pregnant Women

Veins in pregnant women Pictures of Varicose Veins

Spider Veins On Legs

Pregnancy: Varicose Veins


What Are Varicose Veins?
What Are The Symptoms?
What Causes It?
How Is It Diagnosed?
What Is The Treatment?
What Are The Costs Of Surgery?
Prevention Tips

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Pregnancy Symptoms List

What Are Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are enlarged twisted or swollen veins. They tend to appear near the surface of the skin, looking blue or purple and slightly bulged. Most commonly they appear on the legs, inner calves or ankles. During pregnancy, they can also appear on the tummy as well as in vulva/labia and groin area; and can be painful. In fact pregnancy induced hemorrhoids or piles are just varicose veins which appear in the rectal area. One in four Americans suffers the pain of varicose veins at some point in their life, but women are twice as likely to suffer as men. Pregnancy in particular seems to promote the development of veins in women, particularly in the legs and vulva. This may be due to the increased levels of pregnancy hormones (including progesterone) and restricted blood flow from the leg veins to the pelvis by an enlarged uterus. Varicose veins tend to become more prominent during the second trimester.

What Are The Symptoms?

Most women find the appearance of varicose veins the worst symptom as they can appear quite unsightly. Additionally, many report a pain or throb, combined with a burning itching feeling, particularly at the end of the day. In more severe forms, the legs may develop a brow-gray tinge, combined with scaling, especially around the ankle area. Increased blood pressure can in some instances also result in skin ulcers. In rare cases, complications occur such as inflammation of the veins, a condition known as Phlebitis, or blood clots (Thrombophlebitis). Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) is also a rare risk, a condition where clots develop in deep veins. Pregnant women are more susceptible to DVT, even if varicose veins do not develop.

What Causes It?

Varicose veins occur when the valves inside the veins start to malfunction. The veins are thin walled vessels which carry blood around the body. From time to time, the valves inside the veins, which control the flow of blood become weakened, the blood starts to pool up behind the valve. This causes the vein to become enlarged and distorted. Varicosities can be seen through the skin as blue or purple raised bulges. Sometimes they are accompanied by spider veins (Telangiectases), a common and mild form of varicose veins. Spider veins are hair thin, and usually occur around the ankles. See also stretch marks, another common skin complaint.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Women tend to diagnosis the condition themselves - the appearance of bulging veins on the skin is easy to see. A doctor can more accurately diagnose by feeling the legs and looking for swelling when the woman is standing. If you find that when lying down, raising the legs above chest (heart) level relieves leg pain, then there is a good chance that the problem is varicose veins. An even more accurate diagnosis can be gained through a Doppler ultrasound which can measure blood flow through veins. Also a Venography may be suggested, which measures blood flow through the veins after they have been injected with a contrast dye.

To more about what to expect in your three trimesters, take a quick look at our pregnancy guide.

What Is The Treatment?

Milder Forms
The good news is that spider veins (the milder form of varicose veins) which appear during pregnancy, usually disappear within 6 months of giving delivery and childbirth. Also, varicose veins of the vulva/labia and vagina area usually disappear without treatment. But, the more times you give birth, the slower the rate of improvement.

However, once a vein has become varicose there is no way to return it to its original state. The majority of women who develop varicosity of the leg will retain those varicosities after birth. For this reason, most treatments of varicose veins simply involve relieving the symptoms. Many women find elastic support hosiery (worn from morning to night) helps alleviate pain. Store bought hosiery can work with mild symptoms, but if pain persists, your doctor can prescribe special fitted stockings (graduated compression stockings) which are heavier and put more pressure on the lower legs. Pantyhose are better than below the knee socks as they help to spread the pressure along the entire leg/veins. Another simple way to alleviate pressure is to raise the legs above heart rate level. Exploiting the use of gravity helps blood flow more easily through the veins without relying too much on the vein’s valves. Regular exercise, walking and flexing the feet and ankles will also help. Where varicose veins continue to cause severe pain, inflammation, skin ulcers or bleeding, surgery may be advised. Or some women simply choose surgery for cosmetic purposes. Surgery should be postponed until after pregnancy and may involve either laser surgery, vein stripping, ambulatory phlebectomy or sclerotherapy. See, how are varicose veins treated?

What Are The Costs Of Surgery?

If you are worried about unsightly looking legs after pregnancy, you may wish to consider surgical removal of varicose or spider veins. The costs of surgery (e.g. Sclerotherapy) range between $350 - $650 per leg. If you choose to have surgery for cosmetic reasons, the costs are not likely to be covered by your medical insurance. However, if the surgery is recommended by a doctor for medical reasons, such as intense pain, swelling, ulcers or clots, your medical insurance should cover the surgery - even Medicare provides this cover.

Prevention Tips

As pregnancy and excessive weight gain are important risk factors in causing varicose veins in women, it makes sense to take the following precautions:

Exercise Daily: A 20 minute walk around the block will help blood circulation.
When Sitting: Keep your feet elevated on a stool or box.
When Sleeping: Keep your feet elevated with a pillow.
Do Not: Cross your legs when sitting.
Avoid: Standing for long periods of time where possible.
Do Wear: Support pantyhose and avoid constrictive garments such as tight socks.
Sleep: On your left side. This reduces pressure on the inferior vena cava vein as the uterus increases in size.
Control Your Weight Gain: Varicose veins are more common in obese people. Try not to use pregnancy as an excuse to eat lots of junk!


For more advice on treating medical conditions while pregnant, see the following:

Constipation in pregnancy: Causes and treatment.
• Pre-term false labor pains, cramping:see: Pregnancy cramps
Pregnancy breast changes: Leaking pre-milk, when do breasts get larger, soreness and preparing for breastfeeding.
PUPPs rash: severe itching that can start at week 35.
Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy:
Diastasis Symphysis Pubis (DSP)

Return to Homepage: Womens Health Advice

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