Pregnancy and varicose veins


Pregnancy is an exciting time for the mom-to-be. This time also is filled with many physical changes, some of which place extra stress on the circulatory system.

An increase of pregnancy hormones sometimes can lead to the development of varicose veins. If a woman is carrying twins, is overweight at the start of the pregnancy or has a history of varicose veins, the symptoms can be worse.

A double-edged sword

As the much-needed pregnancy hormone progesterone increases so does the chances of developing varicose veins. Progesterone helps the blood vessels relax, which in turn aids in a healthy delivery. However, the downside to the vessels relaxing is that veins can enlarge.

Another contributor to the development of varicose veins in pregnancy is the increase in blood volume. The body needs increased blood supply to support new life. But again the flip side is that the increased blood volume enlarges veins.

As the uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of the body (the inferior vena cava), which increases pressure in the leg veins. The veins in your legs already are working against gravity, and with the increase in blood volume from pregnancy, the extra burden can take its toll on the body.

During pregnancy, varicose veins can appear in the vulval or gluteal region and can extend down the inner thigh and lower leg. Pelvic congestion syndrome, sometimes called pelvic vein incompetence, most commonly occur in women who have had two or more pregnancies. Symptoms can include heaviness and aching in the pelvis or urinary symptoms such as incontinence or frequency of urination, and bowel symptoms such as bloating and constipation.

A diagnosis of pelvis congestion is important; the condition can lead to recurrence following any vein treatment.

When is it time to seek treatment?

Varicose veins are best treated in between pregnancies. Typically, treating varicose veins during pregnancy is not as effective as it is postpartum. Additionally as with any medical procedure there is a chance of complications. In the case of varicose vein treatment deep or superficial vein clots, swelling, pain, and leg rashes can occur.

Usually, pregnancy related varicose veins improve within four months of delivery. Note that the long-term effect of varicose veins increases with each pregnancy. As a side note, these symptoms can appear postpartum also. For this reason varicose veins in the pelvis and legs should be treated before the next pregnancy to avoid continued deterioration with future pregnancies.

What you can do

  • Exercise daily. Walking generally is a good exercise for anyone. However, discuss your exercise plan with your doctor first.
  • Watch your diet and your weight. Discuss with your doctor a weight range for your pregnancy.
  • Pamper yourself! Elevate your feet and legs to the level of your heart or higher as often as you are able and especially in the evening. Keep a stool under your desk at the office or keep an ottoman near your favorite chair.
  • Do not cross your legs or ankles when sitting.
  • Don't sit or stand for long periods of time. Take frequent breaks to move around.
  • Consider compression socks. You may want to try wearing graduated compression socks or stockings, which are tight at the ankle and get looser as they go up your leg, making it easier for blood to flow back up toward your heart. As a result, they help prevent swelling and may keep your varicose veins from getting worse

San Diego Vein Institute offers treatments for varicose veins and other vein health concerns. For more information or to make an appointment visit or call 760-944-9263.