Varicose Veins During Pregnancy: Causes, Prevention & Treatment

varicose veins during pregnancy

Pregnancy is a very responsible time. The health of the future baby fully depends on its course. And, of course, every pregnant woman cares about herself and tries to prevent all sorts of risks. However, not only a pleasant expectation accompanies pregnancy. Sometimes a woman faces complications that did not disturb her before. Varicose veins during pregnancy is one of the most common pathologies. It occurs in almost half of future mothers. So, what is varicose veins and how to deal with the problem?

What Is Varicose Veins Disease?

Varicose veins (from Latin “varicis” – distended veins) is a disease characterized by an uneven increase in the veins and thinning of the venous walls. It is observed mainly in women and often begins during pregnancy.

Why does it happen? At this moment of life, due to the increase of the uterus and the growth of the baby there is increase in the volume of blood circulating through the veins and, accordingly, the blood pressure increases in the veins (primarily in the vein of the abdominal cavity, the pelvic vein and the veins of the legs). In addition, an increase in the amount of the hormone progesterone can lead to a weakening of the walls of the vessels.

Varicose veins during pregnancy. varicose veins

Moreover, the legs are not the only place where varicose can reveal itself. Varicose veins during pregnancy may appear on the neck and, more unpleasantly, in the vagina. By the way, such phenomenon as hemorrhoids (also sometimes accompanying pregnancy), in fact, is a varicose veins in the rectum.

Varicose Veins during Pregnancy

Pregnancy can provoke a very unpleasant disease – varicose veins (chronic venous insufficiency). According to statistics, 20-30% of women after the first pregnancy have varicose veins. In subsequent pregnancies, this percentage increases and reaches 40-60% during the second pregnancy, and up to 80% during the third. As a rule, varicose veins during pregnancy most often occur in women who are predisposed to the disease. In many women, the first manifestations of varicose veins are visible even before the onset of the conception.

Varicose veins during pregnancy

Visually, problems with the veins may look like “spider veins” and “worms”. In the first case we are talking about transparent small vessels, similar to the spider web. They have a blue or purple color, but do not rise above the surface of the skin. “Worms” – is, on the contrary, the expansion of the main veins. As a rule, in this case, the veins are pushing out and swell. Such veins have a blue-green color. But varicose veins during pregnancy are not just a cosmetic defect. It is a disease that is extremely dangerous because of its complications. The most common among them are the following: thrombophlebitis, trophic ulcers and bleeding. The formation of thrombus is the most dangerous. It can come off and create an immediate threat to the life of the mother and the child.

Main Causes of Varicose Veins during Pregnancy

If you analyze the main causes of development of varicose veins, pregnancy is always a risk for the blood vessels.

  • Hormonal reconstruction. In connection with the formation of the fetus, the hormonal background of pregnant women is repeatedly rebuilt. This traumatizes the vascular walls. They become less elastic and fragile. It is known that in the non-pregnant state, varicose veins occur in women with hormonal disorders.
  • The valve apparatus of the veins is disrupted. Due to the fact that the volume of blood circulating through the veins significantly increases, the venous valves can prolapse, i.e., flex more than necessary and do not close completely. There is a venostasis, which provokes varicose veins during pregnancy.
  • Excess weight. A woman during pregnancy gains 10 – 12 kilograms. This is normal. But the pressure on the vessels increases. As a result, prolonged load provokes varicose veins during pregnancy.
  • Heredity. If the relatives of the pregnant woman have problems with varicose veins, she will most likely develop this disease as well. Unfortunately, we inherit not only the color of the hair and eyes, but the weakness of the venous walls.
  • Incorrect clothes, shoes and high heels.
  • Unnecessary care of yourself. Often pregnant women try to sit and lie more.  They move and walk less. This is the direct route to venous stasis in the lower limbs, and, as a consequence, to varicose veins during pregnancy.

Symptoms of the Disease

The mechanism of the formation of varicose veins during pregnancy is the following: the blood is “pumped” into the lower limbs along the channel of the arteries, but is retained there, because the veins are partially compressed and cannot provide sufficient blood flow. As a consequence, stagnation of venous blood occurs, which expands the veins from the inside.

The initial stages of varicose veins for a woman is almost asymptomatic – only a slight deformation of the veins is revealed. In this case, by the end of the day, edema takes place, which completely disappears by morning. As a rule, edema is accompanied by a sense of heaviness of the legs and fatigue.

Varicose veins during pregnancy

In a worse condition, muscle cramps can occur. Basically, they disturb the pregnant woman at night. Further the disease is aggravated by severe pain in the legs and itching of the skin. The condition may become worse at night.

The next stage of development of varicose veins is a significant deformation. In this case, the veins protrude above the skin, they are enlarged, sometimes bizarrely curved. It is worth noting that in some cases (even with severe deformity of the veins), a woman may not have unpleasant or painful sensations. At the same time, changes that are not noticeable to the eye can often be combined with severe pain symptoms.

How to Prevent Varicose Veins during Pregnancy?

First of all, during pregnancy, you should avoid prolonged standing or sitting. It is necessary to rest more often lying on one side. This relieves pressure from the veins of the small pelvis and veins on the legs, which allows normalizing the blood flow.

Secondly, raise your legs while sitting or lying as often as possible. At the same time, terrestrial gravity helps to return blood from the legs.

Varicose veins during pregnancy. pregnant woman resting

Thirdly, in order to prevent the progression of varicose veins during pregnancy, you can wear medical compression garments. They are available in specialized medical stores according to the prescription of the attending physician or the store employee can select the compression stockings of the correct size.

When wearing compression garments the blood is redistributed into uninfected venous vessels. In addition, stockings affect not only enlarged superficial veins, but also deeper veins of the legs. As a result, blood flow in small vessels improves, the nutrition of the skin and subcutaneous tissue normalizes. In all cases, compression significantly reduces the blood’s ability to form blood clots. This is the principle of the effect of compression stockings on the veins of the legs. The force of the pressure of the stockings will decrease from the bottom up on the leg. This is necessary to improve the flow of blood back to the heart. Compression products, such as stockings, knee socks, pantyhose should be worn throughout pregnancy and in the postpartum period for 6-8 weeks.

Having varicose veins during pregnancy, you should regularly exercise to improve blood circulation. Even if you didn’t practice physical training before, pay attention to simple exercises that will improve the blood flow in the veins. Light physical exercises under the supervision of the attending physician, will help keeping a good physical shape and prevent the progression of varicose veins.

Varicose veins during pregnancy. sport while pregnant

Treatment of Varicose Veins during Pregnancy

Self-treatment of varicose veins during pregnancy, as well as other diseases, is unacceptable. This should be handled by a specialist.

In most cases, treatment of this disease in pregnant women should be limited to conservative methods aimed at improving venous outflow. For treatment, all those measures that we have mentioned above (e.g., wearing special stockings, exercise therapy) are relevant. Here you can also take walks in the fresh air, climbing and descending stairs. The basis of nutrition for a pregnant woman suffering from varicose veins should be vegetables, lean meat, fish, cottage cheese, eggs.

Most often local drugs (gels, ointments) are used for the treatment of varicose veins during pregnancy. However, keep in mind that not every remedy is now suitable, since the active substance penetrates into the blood and can be dangerous for the child.

In especially difficult cases, with rapid progression of the disease (or such complications as ascending thrombophlebitis, trophic ulcer), surgical treatment is performed. If there is a real threat, doctors decide on a surgical intervention, which, as a rule, is performed in the first six months of pregnancy.

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