Varicose veins are swollen veins. They are usually a dark blue or purple in colour, and may appear lumpy. They are most commonly found in the legs, although can appear elsewhere on the body.
What causes varicose veins?
Veins have small valves inside, that prevent blood from flowing backwards, and ensure that the blood flows towards the heart. If these valves stop working properly, blood can flow backwards and pools in the vein causing enlargement of the vein.
Varicose veins during pregnancy
Pregnancy increases your risk of suffering from varicose veins, as the pregnancy puts extra pressure on your body. During pregnancy, hormones cause the walls of your blood vessels to relax. Your body is working harder than ever to pump an increased volume of blood around your body. And your expanding uterus is putting pressure on the veins in your pelvis.
If you have varicose veins on or around your vulva, you should inform your healthcare provider. You should still be able to have a vaginal birth, but they may wish to keep a close eye on the veins in question during labour.
Symptoms of varicose veins
As well as the general appearance of varicose veins, you may also experience:
- muscle cramps in your legs
- swollen legs and feet
- a throbbing or burning sensation in your legs
- dry, itchy skin over the affected area
Treatment and prevention of varicose veins
To prevent and treat varicose veins, try the following tips:
- always sleep on your left – during pregnancy, you should avoid sleeping on your back because your enlarged uterus can prevent proper blood flow in this position. It is recommended that pregnant women sleep and lie on their left-hand side, because this allows for optimum blood flow.
- change position often – do not sit or stand for long periods, try to move around regularly. If seated, you should try to take a short walk every half hour to prevent blood from pooling in your legs.
- elevate your feet when seated.
- avoid crossing your legs when sitting.
- take regular exercise – regular exercise can help circulation and prevent blood from pooling. Swimming, yoga and walking are all great exercises during pregnancy.
- avoid eating for two – being overweight can increase your risk of suffering from varicose veins, so try to eat healthily during pregnancy. Eat a balanced diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, and try to avoid consuming empty calories such as soda and junk food.
- avoid constipation – hemorrhoids are a common form of varicose veins experienced during pregnancy. Drink plenty of water, eat a healthy balanced diet and make sure you are eating enough fibre to reduce your chance of suffering from constipation. Constipation can easily lead to hemorrhoids.
- wear support tights or compression stockings – maternity support tights are widely available and can help to prevent blood pooling in your veins. Your doctor may recommend compression stockings if the maternity support tights are not providing any relief.
Most women find that the varicose veins disappear by themselves after the birth. As the uterus shrinks back down, and blood volume returns to normal, the veins are under less pressure and are better able to function. If you still have varicose veins six months after the birth, you may wish to speak to your doctor about treatment options.
Are you suffering with varicose veins?
Written by Fiona, proud owner of a toddler, @fiona_peacock
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2018. All rights reserved.