What causes varicose veins in pregnancy
Thursday 13 April 2017

It’s an incredibly exciting time when you’re expecting a baby but there are some occupational hazards of being a mum-to-be and varicose veins are one of them.

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are swollen veins that bulge near the surface of your skin. They are normally dark blue or purple and unsightly.

Varicose veins occur due to the small valves within a vein weakening which prevents it from functioning properly. The blood in the vein then starts to move in the wrong direction and instead of the blood flowing towards the heart it pools in the vein.

Why do women get varicose veins whilst pregnant?

Many women first develop varicose veins when they are pregnant. This can be due to a combination of reasons.

Your body produces extra blood whilst you’re pregnant to support your body and your growing baby. This additional blood puts extra pressure on your blood vessels and especially those in your legs that are carrying blood against gravity to your heart.

Additionally, your growing uterus puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of your body, known as the inferior vena cava. This in turn increases pressure on your leg veins.

Furthermore, a pregnant woman can experience an increase in the female sex hormone called progesterone that is thought to weaken the walls of the veins and make them relax and engorged with more blood than normal.

The added stress your veins are put under during pregnancy can lead to their valves weakening and your veins swelling and may result in varicose veins appearing.

Are some women more likely to develop varicose veins during pregnancy?

There are some factors that can increase your likelihood of developing varicose veins. These include genetics, being overweight and standing for long periods of time.

It also appears that varicose veins tend to get worse with each successive pregnancy and that carrying twins or higher multiples, can also make you more susceptible. This is thought to be due to your veins already being weakened and the additional weight adding extra pressure on your veins.

Are there any natural remedies to help prevent varicose veins?

Natural remedies that encourage healthy blood circulation may help to prevent varicose veins. These include:

- Getting regular exercise and walking around.

- Avoiding standing or sitting in the same position for prolonged periods.

- Wearing low heeled or flat shoes.

- Wearing maternity support hosiery.

- Avoiding tight clothing around your waist and groin.

- Not crossing your legs when sitting.

- Regularly elevating your legs.

- Lying on your left side to relieve pressure on the inferior vena cava.

- Controlling your weight.

- Eating a low-salt diet.

- Drinking plenty of water and eating plenty of fibre.

Will varicose veins disappear once the baby arrives?

Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy often diminish and disappear naturally after you’ve given birth. This might take a few months or up to a year following the delivery of your baby. Your body needs time to recover from the vascular and hormonal changes of pregnancy.

How can I treat varicose veins?

If varicose veins don't go away after your baby has arrived, you may consider treatment options. Varicose veins can be treated by:

- Endovenous laser therapy (EVLT) or endovenous laser ablation EVLA) – uses laser to heat up and seal the affected veins. Your body automatically reroutes blood flow to healthy veins and the damaged vein is eventually absorbed into your body.

- Sclerotherapy – injects liquid into your veins under ultrasound guidance. The liquid seals the vein closed and the vein fades. Foam sclerotherapy uses foam to treat larger varicose veins.

- Varicose vein surgery – most commonly the affected vein is tied off and then removed, a procedure known as litigation and stripping.

Local treatment available at Duchy Hospital

At Duchy Hospital we offer a comprehensive, local varicose vein service to remove varicose veins for medical and cosmetic reasons.

Varicose vein treatment for cosmetic reasons is not available on the NHS. We understand many women want their unsightly varicose veins treated and we support this.

For more information or to book an appointment please call us on 0800 917 0022.