Baby Strains On Your Veins
You’ve most likely heard about the morning sickness, hormonal changes, and food cravings that so many women experience during pregnancy. But, did you know that some pregnant mommies also experience varicose veins? The maternal vascular system undergoes significant changes during pregnancy. During this time, the blood volume in an expectant mother’s body increases by 30% to 50% to nourish the growing baby, and the heart works 30% harder. If you’re beginning to experience painful or unsightly veins in your legs now that you’re expecting a bundle of joy, here are several ways you can alleviate your discomfort.
What Causes Vein Issues During Pregnancy?
The level of progesterone — a hormone that dilates blood vessels — dramatically increases during pregnancy. This is crucial for a healthy pregnancy, but it also causes them to relax. Because blood doesn’t move as easily through relaxed veins, it builds up and creates added pressure, enlarging them.
Increased blood supply
The blood volume of an expectant mother increases significantly during pregnancy to help support the developing baby. More blood in the body means added strain and pressure on the valves and walls, which can cause them to work less efficiently.
Pressure from the uterus
As the womb expands, it pushes against the organs and blood vessels in the abdomen, and puts pressure on the veins in the pelvic area. This can slow the movement of blood from the legs back to the heart.
Types of Vein Issues That Can Arise During Pregnancy
This condition occurs when your leg veins don’t efficiently move blood back to the heart. This improper functioning of the valves can cause pain, itching, swelling, night cramps, and skin discoloration. Up to 30% of women develop venous insufficiency during their first pregnancy.
These large, swollen blood vessels in the legs are common during pregnancy. Visible varicose veins may become larger as the pregnancy progresses, then recede after birth. Expectant mothers should consult their obstetrician if a condition worsens.
These small red or blue veins appear most often on the legs, but also can occur on other parts of the body, such as the face. They take the shape of a spider web or sunburst. Although unsightly, spider veins are typically painless.
How to Alleviate Pain and Discomfort
Elevate your legs whenever possible
Sitting or lying down with your feet higher than heart level is a great way to keep your vascular system healthy during pregnancy. Gravity helps the blood flow from the leg veins back toward the heart. Consider putting a pillow under your feet when in bed to help blood flow efficiently while you rest.
Daily exercise, such as walking, improves circulation and helps keep blood from pooling in your legs. If you have any concerns, ask your obstetrician which forms of exercise are safe to perform while you are pregnant.
Lie on your left side
This relieves pressure on the veins in your abdomen and allows normal blood flow while you’re sleeping.
Wear compression stockings
Supportive maternity pantyhose or thigh-high compression stockings apply pressure to the outside of your legs. This helps counteract the pressure within the veins, preventing bulging and swelling, and keeping blood from pooling in the legs. Try putting on the stockings in the morning and taking them off before going to bed each night.
For some women, visible varicose or spider veins as well as painful symptoms may continue to exist even through postpartum. If you are still experiencing swelling, restlessness, visible veins, or a feeling of heaviness within your legs, treatment can help relieve discomfort and prevent future health concerns like blood clots or venous ulcers.
Although pregnancy can increase your risk of developing vein issues, most women find they significantly improve after the baby is born. For additional information on how to alleviate its pain and discomfort, see the accompanying infographic. Don’t forget to schedule your appointment to meet your baby with a 5D ultrasound at Here is Baby.
Author bio: Dr. Yan Katsnelson is the founder of USA Vein Clinics, the largest national network of vein treatment centers committed to improving lives through minimally invasive treatments of venous insufficiency. USA Vein Clinics specializes in the treatment of varicose and spider veins through endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), ClariVein, Varithena vein treatment, ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, and sclerotherapy injections.