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The Link Between Pregnancy and Varicose Veins

The Link Between Pregnancy and Varicose Veins

Pregnancy brings profound changes in a woman's body, including some that increase your risk of developing varicose veins.

Board-certified vascular surgeon Gary Nackman, MD, FACS, and our team at NJ Vein Care and Aesthetics Center in Oradell and Clifton, New Jersey, specialize in treating vascular conditions and aesthetic concerns, including varicose veins.

Read insight from the NJ Vein Care and Aesthetics team regarding the link between pregnancy and varicose veins and steps you can take to manage and possibly prevent these troublesome veins.

Understanding varicose veins

Varicose veins are a common condition that affects many individuals, but pregnant women are particularly susceptible. These veins develop when the valves within veins weaken or malfunction, causing blood to pool and veins to enlarge.

Varicose veins can develop anywhere in the body, but they’re much more common in the legs, where blood must work against gravity to flow back to the heart. This process increases pressure on vein walls and valves, making them more vulnerable to the damage that leads to varicose veins.

Pregnancy and varicose veins

A woman's body undergoes significant changes during pregnancy to support the growing baby. While essential to a healthy pregnancy, these physiologic changes increase your risk of varicose veins.

One such change is increased blood volume to supply oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus. While this is a natural and necessary adaptation, it puts additional stress on the circulatory system, especially in the legs.

Additionally, hormonal fluctuations play a crucial role in developing varicose veins. The hormone progesterone, which increases during pregnancy, contributes to the relaxation of vein walls.

This relaxation, combined with pressure from the growing uterus, can lead to compromised blood flow and the onset of varicose veins.

Preventing and managing varicose veins during pregnancy

While varicose veins may be an unwelcome companion during pregnancy, there are steps you can take to manage and potentially prevent their development:

1. Stay active

Regular exercise promotes healthy blood circulation. Always check with your obstetrician before beginning an exercise program, but walking and swimming activities can be particularly beneficial for pregnant women.

2. Take a break and put your feet up  

Avoid prolonged sitting or standing, both of which place pressure on leg veins. On the other hand, elevating the legs whenever possible helps reduce swelling in the legs, decreases pressure on veins, and encourages proper blood flow.

3. Consider compression stockings

Check with your doctor first, but these specially designed stockings apply gentle pressure to the legs, helping prevent blood from pooling and reducing the risk of varicose veins.

4. Stick with a healthy, fiber-rich diet

Constipation can exacerbate varicose veins and contribute to hemorrhoids. A balanced diet with adequate fiber can help prevent constipation. Maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy also helps prevent excessive weight gain, another factor that increases your risk of varicose veins.

We also recommend monitoring your salt intake since excessive sodium can cause fluid retention, increasing the risk of swelling in the ankles and feet and contributing to vein damage.

5. Stay hydrated

Proper hydration supports overall vascular health and helps maintain blood flow. Drinking lots of healthy fluids also helps prevent constipation.

6. Stay in touch

Regular prenatal check-ups during pregnancy ensure that any developing issues, including varicose veins, are addressed promptly.

Varicose veins may shrink and become less problematic several weeks after delivery, but they worsen with each subsequent pregnancy. Fortunately, there are highly effective, minimally invasive treatments available that offer long-term solutions for varicose veins.

Schedule an evaluation at NJ Vein Care and Aesthetics Center today to explore your treatment options. Call the Oradell or Clifton, New Jersey, office or request an appointment online.

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