Mar 13, 2015

Risk of Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

The term varicose vein, is used to refer to a swollen or enlarged vein. Varicose veins can occur anywhere on the body, though the veins of the legs are more likely to become enlarged due to a defect in the valves or the vein wall. The veins are concerned with returning the deoxygenated blood to the heart, and the veins of the legs do this against the force of gravity.

There are certain valves in the leg veins that open to allow the blood to move upward towards the heart, and then close off to prevent its back flow towards the legs. But when these valves fail to function properly, they cannot prevent the back flow of blood. This causes the blood to pool inside the veins, and as a result, the veins become swollen. Even abnormalities of the vein wall can cause the veins to become varicose. This condition is more common in women, especially in pregnant women. In fact, pregnancy is one of the most important factors that can cause this condition.

Pregnancy and Varicose Veins

As we know, pregnancy is the period marked by a lot of hormonal fluctuations, along with physical changes. During this stage, a woman gains considerable weight due to the growing fetus. Such weight gain often puts more pressure on the large vein on the right side of the body, which is known as the inferior vena cava. This in turn, increases the pressure in the blood vessels of the legs or extremities of the body, and contributes towards the development of varicose veins.

Additionally, the rising levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause the veins to relax, for which the two halves of a valve may fail to meet completely. The result is the leakage or back flow of blood, which can accumulate inside the veins and cause them to enlarge. Apart from these, the volume of blood in the body increases during pregnancy. As a result, the leg veins have to work harder to pump blood to the heart. The factors that can raise the risk of developing this condition during pregnancy are, multiple pregnancy, excess body weight, and the act of standing or sitting for a prolonged period of time.

Another similar condition that women may encounter during this period is the development of spider veins, that can appear near the surface of the skin, mainly on the arms, face, and the legs. The veins can appear red or blue in color and look quite similar to a spider's web. However, this condition is usually harmless, as it is not known to cause any discomforts like pain or itching. But varicose veins can sometimes produce pain, a sensation of heaviness in the legs, dryness and itching around the veins, and a burning or throbbing sensation in the lower leg. It may also be accompanied by muscle cramps, swelling in the lower legs, ankle swelling, and skin ulcers near the ankle.


Varicose veins usually occur during pregnancy and then resolve on their own after delivery. However, during this period, they may cause a few discomforts. The best way to prevent this condition is to avoid sitting or standing at a stretch for a long time. Pregnant women should elevate their legs whenever it is possible.

Mild physical activities or exercises can help maintain the ideal body weight (for the particular stage of pregnancy), which is very much important to reduce the extra pressure on your blood vessels. Pregnancy and the resulting weight gain can put extra pressure on the inferior vena cava, which is located on the right side of the body. A habit of sleeping on your right side can put more pressure on this vein. So, you can consider to sleep on the left side, in order to reduce the pressure on the inferior vena cava.

However, if these measures fail to prevent this problem or relieve the discomforts associated with it, then consider to take the help of maternity support stockings. Put the support hose or stocking in the morning, just before getting out of the bed. This will prevent the blood from pooling inside your legs. If the condition becomes extremely uncomfortable or painful, then talk to your physician. Your physician needs to be informed about all the changes or discomforts you are experiencing during this stage, in order to avoid any kind of possible complications.


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