Some pregnancy symptoms are minor, such as backache and fatigue. Others are more serious, like bleeding, severe nausea/vomiting, preeclampsia or preterm labor. In light of these symptoms, leg vein problems can seem to be the last straw.
Since there are so many pregnancy risks associated with various medical treatments, prescription drugs, surgeries and even certain vitamins and herbs that it may seem like an impossible feat to treat your leg veins during pregnancy. We’re here to tell you that’s not the case.
Why Varicose Veins Develop in Pregnancy
While any vein can become varicose, the veins most commonly affected by this condition are found in the legs and feet. Although pregnancy increases the volume of blood in your body, it also slows the blood flow from the legs to the pelvis. This change in circulation is designed to support the growing fetus and prepare the body for labor and delivery, but it can produce the unfortunate side effect of enlarged veins in your legs.
While some women don’t get enlarged veins until later in pregnancy, other women develop these troublesome veins near the beginning of pregnancy due to hormone fluctuations. Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy often improve without medical treatment within 6 to 12 weeks after delivering the baby. The more babies the more likely some of the varicose veins will persists. This problem also tends to be hereditary; if your mother had them, you will most likely develop them as well.
Treating Leg Veins During Pregnancy: Dos and Don’ts
While varicose veins may not be attractive, they don’t pose a health risk to you or your baby in and of themselves. However, they can lead to considerable pain. In most cases, the veins will disappear after the baby is born and your hormones have dropped to normal levels. Treating leg veins during pregnancy is not an exact science, but there are some things you can do to help.
Improve Blood Flow and Circulation
Keep your blood moving by getting off your feet whenever you can. If you have young children requiring care, consider hiring a babysitter to give you a chance to rest for a few hours.
If you need to stand for an extended period of time, put one foot on a low stool. Alternate your legs to give each one a change of position. Flex your ankles occasionally to improve blood flow. If you have a habit of crossing your legs, now is the time to break it. You may lower the risks of spider veins this way as well.
Work Your Muscles
One of the key steps to promote healthy veins, blood flow and preventing varicose veins during pregnancy is exercise. If you can, take at least one walk per day. Better still, take several walks. If you don’t want to walk, do some other form of low-impact exercise that increases circulation. Swimming and light stretching are both excellent choices, but be sure to consult with your OB/GYN first.
Choose Your Wardrobe Wisely
Wear clothing that is loose and comfortable. If your underwear is binding or tight, replace it with something less snug. Avoid tight belts and socks with tight elastic tops. Footwear should be snug to prevent stumbling, but should not be tight in any way. Of course, stay away from stiletto heels until you’ve given birth.
Compression is Key
A pair of compression stockings is useful when it comes to pregnancy-caused varicose veins. Wearing these socks consistently is one of the most effective ways to provide support. Medical grade graduated compression hosiery provide the strongest pressure at the ankles and gradually decrease in pressure as they rise. You may want to keep wearing them even after pregnancy and until your circulation and hormones have returned to normal. Compression hose can also decrease other pregnancy-related symptoms, such as swollen feet and tired, aching legs.
Talk to a Vein Specialist
To ensure that you don’t develop any varicose vein complications during or after your pregnancy, be sure to visit a phlebologist. Phlebologists, or vein specialists, treat and diagnosis vein disorders and will be able to spot a complication before it becomes serious.
The most likely vein symptoms during pregnancy include: swelling, pain, bleeding or a superficial blood clot in the varicose vein. Because your baby’s health is a top concern, consult with your OB/GYN before beginning any type of treatment plan for venous disease. It is generally not advisable to receive treatment for varicose veins during pregnancy that involves any incisions or injections; however, notify your OB/GYN or phlebologist immediately if your varicose veins and the surrounding area become warm, red, very painful or begin to bleed.
Managing Discomfort and Pain from Leg Veins in Pregnancy
Along with support hose, there are several other things you can do to help with the discomfort and pain caused by leg veins. During pregnancy, the uterus exerts pressure on the inferior vena cava. This vein is responsible for transporting blood from the legs and feet to the heart. If the vena cava is restricted in some way, blood will pool in the feet and legs, leading to varicose veins. This is why your OB/GYN likely advised you to lie on your left side when resting or sleeping, as it prevents excess pressure on this vein. Drinking plenty of water can also help your body maintain a proper fluid balance.
Other options for treating leg veins during pregnancy include maintaining the weight recommended by your OB/GYN and avoiding long periods of sitting or standing. If your veins continue to bother you after you have given birth, you will benefit from a consultation with a vein specialist.
Safe Treatment Options After Pregnancy
Although self-care and compression stockings may work for some people and varicose veins developed during pregnancy often resolve on their own after giving birth, some patients will require treatment. In these cases, we offer treatments for venous disease that are non-surgical and performed right in our practice without ever having to set foot in an operating room.
Endovenous thermal ablation was the first endovenous minimally invasive alternative to vein stripping. It is the most common method used to treat saphenous reflux at this time. The procedure uses thermal radiofrequency energy to close or collapse the unhealthy saphenous vein reflux. It is performed in an office setting under local anesthesia with ultrasound guidance.
VenaSeal is our newest FDA approved treatment for varicose veins that doesn’t require surgery or heat to treat the affected veins. A small IV catheter is inserted into the unhealthy saphenous vein. Through the catheter, a surgical adhesive is injected to seal the affected vein shut. Patients are able to walk out with just a regular bandaid. It’s that simple and minimally invasive.
Varithena is a non-surgical injectable foam treatment specifically indicated for the great saphenous vein and surrounding veins. Unlike VenaSeal, which seals the vein shut, Varithena foam channels through the vein, creating a chemical reaction that causes the vein to scar shut. Patients feel no pain and don’t require sedation during this procedure but do need to wear compression after the procedure. Additional sessions may be needed to complete the treatment.
Ambulatory phlebectomy is used to treat large bulging varicose veins on your legs. It is an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia to numb the area, allowing the problem veins to be removed through micro-incisions in the skin that do not require stitches and heal with minimal scarring.
Sclerotherapy uses a liquid chemical injected into the spider vein. The sclerosant chemically scars the wall of the unhealthy vein, causing it to close off. This procedure is commonly used to treat small varicose veins and spider veins.
Treating Leg Veins During Pregnancy and Postpartum in Middle Georgia
For exemplary varicose vein treatment in Middle Georgia, consider Vein Specialists of the South. Dr. Kenneth Harper has evaluated more than 14,000 patients since 2000, and is a leader in comprehensive vein care. We offer a wide variety of treatment options, including sclerotherapy, VenaSeal, Venefit / Radiofrequency Closure and ambulatory phlebectomy. Please schedule a consultation with Dr. Harper and our team of vein specialists and learn which varicose vein treatment is best for you.