Pregnancy affects your body in many ways, and some of them are the reason your risk of varicose veins increases.
It has to do with more blood in your body, extra weight, and an increase in the hormone progesterone.
When you are pregnant, the amount of blood in your body increases to accommodate the extra person inside you. The new blood expands your blood vessels and veins, making them move visible and perhaps also weakening vein walls.
The weight you gain also has the effect of putting more pressure on your veins as your heart pumps harder to supply all tissues.
Finally, the hormone progesterone increases, which causes vein walls to become more flexible but also probably weakens them.
What pregnancy means to your veins
All this is hard on your veins. During and after pregnancy, you are likely to see some signs of varicose veins – swollen, discolored veins near the surface of your skin, particularly in your legs. You might also suffer from hemorrhoids or discover varicose veins near your vulva or vagina. These are likely to go away shortly after you give birth, and pregnancy-caused varicose veins in your legs could disappear, too, after a year or so as your body recovers.
Progesterone varies at other stages in your life, particularly menopause. That may be a reason women over 50 are more likely to see varicose veins for the first time.
Action to keep your veins healthy
Just because your hormones are fluctuating doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to stay healthy and, perhaps, stop varicose veins from forming, or at least to slow them down.
- When pregnant, sleep on your left side. In this position, the fetus won’t be pushing as much against the large vein that send blood to the legs. You should also put a pillow under your feet to keep your legs slightly elevated.
- When sitting, put your legs up on a stool and avoid crossing your legs.
- Everyone should avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time.
- Exercise, including walking, will improve blood flow and strengthen your calf muscles, which help pump blood from your legs toward your heart.
- Support stockings help prevent blood from pooling in your legs and ankles, and they come in designer colors.
- Maintain a healthy weight, allowing for extra pounds during pregnancy, and make sure your diet is low in salt and high in fiber.
Ask your doctor about your varicose veins, whether you are pregnant or not. A specialist can help you decide what – if anything – you should do about them. To schedule a free appointment with Dr. Afshar at The Vein Institute, click here.