You may have thought that varicose veins only show up when you enter your golden years, but unfortunately, you were wrong. Many women find that varicose veins make an unwelcome appearance during their pregnancy. Varicose veins are harmless, but they’re most definitely unsightly. They are blue or purple squiggly lines and they most commonly show up on the legs. They might feel itchy after a long day of standing, but most women don’t feel them at all. They show up during pregnancy because your blood volume increases and it becomes more difficult for your veins to work against gravity. Your vein walls also become looser because of the relaxin in your body, so the veins hold more blood. If you’ve been pregnant before, your varicose veins will get worse with every successive pregnancy, so they’ll be worse after your first baby. Additionally, you’ll be more likely to get them if you’re overweight during your pregnancy, as there will be more pressure on the veins.

Studies show that there are a few ways you can prevent getting varicose veins during your pregnancy. Daily exercise will increase your circulation, which will make it easier for your veins to pump your blood up to your heart. Therefore, blood won’t collect in the veins in your legs. You should also avoid standing in one place for too long while you’re pregnant. If your job requires extended standing, make sure you take frequent breaks and move around to promote circulation. Sleeping on your left side will also prevent them, because it relieves pressure on the inferior vena cava, which is a large vein on the right side of your body.

One of the most effective ways to prevent them is to wear special pantyhose designed to inhibit varicose veins. They’re especially tight in certain areas so that blood flows properly. However, some women find these particularly uncomfortable, especially during pregnancy. If you can bear the feeling, you should wear them, because they will help.

Varicose veins during your pregnancy are harmless, and unless you had them before you became pregnant, they’ll fade away once your body returns to its normal size. You should only be concerned if you notice dark spots around the veins that look like blood clots. If your varicose veins don’t seem to go away, speak to your doctor about treatment options to minimize their appearance, but only after you’ve given birth.

Source: Brian Kouri: Current Evaluation and Treatment of Lower Extremity Varicose Veins. The American Journal of Medicine Volume 122 Issue 2 pp. 513-515 June 2009

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