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Why veins can become worse during pregnancy.

Some swelling a.k.a. edema, is normal during pregnancy. There’s excess weight on the legs from the developing fetus, an increased fluid load, and hormonal changes can cause a woman to retain more water. This will almost always be more pronounced in the calves, ankles, and feet, since they’re the lowest points of the body, and blood has to work against gravity the hardest to travel back towards the heart.

A picture Varicose Veins during Pregnancy

Of particular importance is the weight of the fetus and the fluid around it. This directly puts pressure on the main abdominal vein, the vena cava. The vena cava is responsible for carrying all blood back to the heart, so any pressure put upon it will make this return harder. This translates into increased pressure inside the veins of the leg, which contributes to swelling. A woman’s blood volume also increases greatly while pregnant, which raises this pressure even more.

A woman is most likely to develop excessive swelling during the 3rd trimester. That’s when the multiple factors that cause swelling are most likely to be present. As with anyone, this swelling will be worst at the end of the day due to standing and walking throughout the day.

During Pregnancy, veins have an increased load of fluid to pump and they become stretched out because of the increased pressure. The vein valves which ensure the fluid keeps moving towards the heart can weaken. This can also happen with obesity, or simply standing for long periods for many years .

The weakening of the vein values causes blood to trickle back down the veins in the legs. The blood begins to pool and the swelling and discomfort that accompanies vein disease can arise. Additionally, this added pressure stretches the veins out even further, causing them to bulge and making them more visible.

Hormonal changes cause further weakening of the veins and vein valves which will contribute further to vein issues and swelling.

After giving birth, things usually return to normal fairly quickly. Your normal fluid balance will return, and any excess swelling you experienced during your pregnancy will stop.

Are Varicose Veins ever Dangerous or Life Threatening?

A blood clot can be dangerous and life threatening. It does not matter if it is during pregnancy or not.

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A pregnant woman wearing compression hose

Compression Hose During Pregnancy

Pregnancy increases the possibility of swelling, especially during the third trimester.

Long periods of immobility, as when flying or sitting in a car for hours, are one of the prime risk factors for increased swelling and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) formation (DVT is another name for a blood clot).

Preventing swelling, or reducing the amount of swelling, by wearing compression garments are an easy way to avoid potentially serious medical consequences.

Learn more more about compression therapy and how it can help prevent and treat swelling concerns during pregnancy.

10 Ways to Reduce Swelling During Pregnancy

  1. Elevate your legs – Elevate your feet whenever possible during the day, and sleep with them propped up 6 to 8 inches above the level of your heart.
  2. Avoid sitting cross-legged for long periods – In general, it pays to vary the position you’re sitting in periodically.

    When sitting for long periods, get up and walk around at intervals of about 90 minutes or so. Be sure to activate your calf muscles by “toeing up” if possible. Rotate your ankles and wiggle your toes to improve circulation.

    When standing for long periods take short sitting breaks at about 90 minute intervals. When standing, be sure to switch your weight from leg to leg frequently. This will minimize blood pooling in your calves, ankles, and feet.
  3. Don’t wear high heels – Wear comfortable, practical flat footwear instead. Wear roomy shoes which can accommodate any swelling that you may experience. Avoid tight socks.
  4. Wear compression hose – Always wear thigh high, prescription strength support stockings. Be sure to put these on before rising from bed, when swelling is at a minimum. Buy several pairs, since you’ll want to wear them daily.
  5. Lie on your side, not your back – This will take the weight of the developing fetus off of your vena cava, the main vein in your abdomen. This will decrease the pressure inside of your leg veins.
  6. Get regular exercise, preferably daily – Walking is the single best option, since it’s low impact and engages the calf muscles, which act as pumps to assist blood back up the leg veins towards the heart. If you can’t tolerate regular walking, water walking in a pool is just as effective.
  7. Stay hydrated – Staying hydrated reduces the buildup of salts and other electrolytes in your body, which helps you retain less water. Go for 80 (or more) ounces of water daily. As a guide, you’ll know you’re well hydrated if your urine is clear or very pale yellow.
  8. Eat less salt – A high sodium diet causes fluid retention.
  9. Eat healthy – The healthier you are the healthier your veins will be.
  10. Maintain a reasonable body weight – The healthier you are and the less weight on your veins will help decrease the factors that contribute to swelling.

The Next Step For Healthy Veins After Delivery?

After your postpartum exam, come in for a Doppler Ultrasound to assess the vein damage done during pregnancy and see what can be done to repair the damage and prevent symptoms from getting worse!

REQUEST A FREE VEIN SCREENING

Pregnancy and Veins FAQ’s

Exercise is actually one of the best, easiest things you can do to keep the worsening of varicose and spider vein formation at bay. It’s positive effects reduce the risk in multiple ways. Exercise is associated with weight loss, which directly reduces pressure on the leg veins. Working out also balances a person’s hormones. Yet the greatest benefit comes from the actual motion of the exercise itself. The large muscles of the legs act as a sort of pump when they contract, helping blood move towards the heart. This makes exercise extremely helpful for vein health as well as overall well being.

Walking is perhaps the single best exercise to improve circulation in the legs, improving vein health and stalling vein disease. It’s also low impact, and nearly everyone can do it. Even if a person has health issues which interfere with walking, water-walking in a swimming pool works just as well. You’ll get all the benefits of walking with even less impact.

Yet not all exercises help, and some in fact can have a detrimental effect. All of the following can increase abdominal pressure, which in turn increases the overall pressure in the veins of the leg.

  • Sit-ups and crunches
  • Lunges
  • Heavy lifting movements, such as deadlift and squats
  • Yoga, if excessive abdominal posing is undertaken.

This isn’t to say that these exercises should be avoided entirely, but should be done in moderation if one has, or is prone, to varicose and spider veins.

 

B-complex vitamins can help vein problems by strengthening the vein walls, reducing the likelihood that your veins will become stretched out. These B-complex vitamins include nutrients like niacin, folate, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid.

Some swelling is normal during pregnancy. There’s excess weight on the legs from the developing fetus, and hormonal changes can cause a woman to retain more water. This will almost always be more pronounced in the calves, ankles, and feet, since they’re the lowest points of the body, and blood has to work against gravity the hardest to travel back towards the heart.

Of particular importance is the weight of the fetus and the fluid around it. This directly puts pressure on the main abdominal vein, the vena cava. The vena cava is responsible for carrying all blood back to the heart. Any additional pressure put on the vena cava will make this return harder. This translates into increased pressure inside the veins of the leg, which will absolutely contribute to swelling.

 

Women are most likely to develop excessive swelling at around the 3rd trimester. That’s when multiple swelling causing factors are in play the most. The swelling will be worst at the end of the day, after standing and walking throughout the day.

After giving birth, things usually return to normal fairly quickly. Your normal fluid balance will return, and any excess swelling you experienced during your pregnancy should stop.

Remember that some swelling is normal, especially during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Some swelling in the hands is also considered normal. This makes sense, since your body’s hormonal balance is changing and you’re retaining more water. Call your doctor’s office if you experience any of the following:

  • Swelling of the face
  • Puffiness of the tissue surrounding the eyes
  • Large amounts of swelling in your wrists and hands
  • The sudden appearance of excessive swelling in the calves, ankles, and feet

These symptoms could be signs of a blood pressure disorder known as preeclampsia, which can occur during pregnancy. This can affect the developing fetus, so seek medical attention immediately.

It’s also essential to see your doctor if one leg is swells suddenly, or if one leg is more swollen than the other, especially if this is seen in the calf area. This is usually accompanied by pain and tenderness. This could be a sign of a blood clot, which is potentially life threatening. Don’t wait, call for immediate assistance.

 

 

If you have any concerns regarding swelling during pregnancy call 724-987-3220 to schedule an immediate consultation!

  1. Avoid sitting cross-legged for long periods.
  2. Don’t wear high heels.
  3. Stay hydrated.
  4. Eat less salt.
  5. Get regular exercise, preferably daily.
  6. Lie on your side, not your back.
  7. Eat healthy.
  8. Maintain a reasonable body weight.
  9. Wear compression hose.
  10. Elevate your feet whenever possible during the day, and sleep with them propped up 6 to 8 inches above the level of your heart.

If you have any concerns regarding swelling during pregnancy schedule a free vein screening today!

After delivery, the appearance of your leg veins will likely improve somewhat. Expect maximal improvement to occur in a 3 to 4 month time period. How much improvement you’ll see varies considerably from patient to patient. If you’ve had large varicosities in the past, have had multiple prior pregnancies, and if you’ve have a family history of vein problems, then you may improve less than you’d like. Excess body weight also plays a large role, as this greatly increases pressure on the leg veins while standing. For similar reasons, if your work requires long periods of standing immediately after your pregnancy this could limit the improvement you’re likely to see.

Concerned that your veins haven't returned to normal? Schedule your Free Vein Screening today!

Spider veins also develop in a very large number of women while they’re pregnant due to an increase in pressure on the leg veins due to the weight of the developing baby. These won’t typically cause the achiness, heaviness, or pain associated with varicose veins, but their appearance may be unsightly. After pregnancy, as with the larger varicose veins, you can expect partial improvement.

Concerned that your veins haven't returned to normal? Schedule your Free Vein Screening today!

Vein problems have the potential to be medically serious. It is important to be assessed by a vein specialist to determine if the vein issue is as expected during pregnancy or it is more serious.

Call 724-987-3220 to schedule your consultation by a vein specialist.

After your postpartum exam, come in for a Doppler Ultrasound to assess the vein damage done during pregnancy and see what can be done to repair the damage and prevent symptoms from getting worse!

Call 724-987-3220 to schedule a vein consultation.

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