As we all know, the body goes through major changes during pregnancy. The development of varicose veins is one of the less obvious side effects, but a common side effect nonetheless. The process tends to occur as the uterus grows, which puts pressure on the large vein of the lower part of the body, which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins. The amount blood flowing through the body always increases during pregnancy, making it even more likely that these veins will develop. Most women don’t realize that varicose veins are more than a cosmetic issue. Numerous health issues can develop from them, including irritation, swelling, painful rashes, skin ulcers, blood clots and severe infection.
5 Ways to Prevent Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Pregnant women can make efforts to prevent varicose veins during pregnancy by following a few lifestyle tips. These tips are not guaranteed to prevent varicose veins, but they certainly lower the chance.
1. Make sure to constantly move around – no sitting or standing for long periods of time. Staying still decreases circulation, which can contribute to varicose veins forming. Even a short walk once a day will keep blood flowing.
2. Sleep with elevated feet: Though this is a tip that I offer to all men and women who are at risk of forming varicose veins, it is also important for pregnant woman to do this as well. When you have a minute to relax, elevate your feet on a pillow, so they land above your heart. This allows weak veins and tired feet and legs to rest, and also prevents putting unneeded pressure on the veins.
3. Exercise: Pregnant women should make efforts to continue working out during pregnancy. Not only does staying active present numerous health benefits during pregnancy, it also strengthens the muscles of the calf and foot. Walking, running, swimming, and bicycling are all good options for strengthening these muscles, but be sure to ask your doctor how much exercise is healthy during each trimester.
4. Invest in Graduated Compression Stockings: Medical supply stores carry these stockings that are specialized to prevent varicose veins. They are tight at the ankle and looser as they go up, helping to prevent swelling and vein formation. The compression stockings act like an extra layer of muscle and help to strengthen the foot and calf muscles while improving venous circulation.
5. If varicose veins still form despite prevention methods, there are treatment options that require no downtime.
Sclerotherapy is a painless injection treatment that collapses the vein, which reabsorbs back into the blood stream. There a types of sclerotherapy, including laser-assisted sclerotherapy (the least invasive and most advanced), foam sclerotherapy for larger, more difficult to treat veins, and ultrasound guided sclerotherapy for large, deep, veins that once needed more surgical treatment. Pregnant patients should wait until about 6 months after giving birth, as the veins might return to normal size without treatment. If they don’t, the best option is to consult a vein specialist.
Luis Navarro, M.D., FACS, is the Founder and Medical Director of The Vein Treatment Center, established in 1982. Dr. Navarro is a General Surgeon, originally board certified in 1976. He is also a senior Clinical Instructor of Surgery at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, where he was Chief Surgical Resident. Dr. Navarro graduated cum laude from the University of Barcelona Medical School in his native Spain. He is affiliated with Beth Israel Medical Center and Lenox Hill Hospital. Dr. Navarro is a Diplomat of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American College of Phlebology, International Union of Phlebology, Canadian Society of Phlebology, American Society of Laser Medicine, and numerous other venous-related societies.