How Will Pregnancy Affect My Leg Veins?
How Will Pregnancy Affect My Leg Veins?
Understanding the potential impact pregnancy can have on your leg veins is essential so that you can take the precautions necessary to minimize the risk of varicose veins and the associated discomfort.
Pregnancy is a joyful, transformative journey filled with many changes and adjustments for expectant moms-to-be. While the health of the baby is foremost in pregnant women’s thoughts, developing pregnancy-related varicose veins is also a common concern. This focal point of anxiety is understandable. According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), varicose veins affect about 40% of pregnant women.
Causes for varicose veins during pregnancy
In short, additional blood volume is the culprit for the arrival of varicose veins while awaiting the arrival of a baby. According to Penn Medicine, while the blood volume in the body increases by as much as 20 percent during pregnancy, the number of veins remains the same. This means the woman’s vascular system must put in extra work to accommodate the increased blood volume.
Coupled with pregnancy hormones that relax the ligaments in the pelvis and smooth muscle cells in the vein walls, it becomes more difficult for the tiny valves in the leg veins to move blood upwards against gravity. The pressure causes veins to dilate and create varicose veins and spider veins. Bluish or purplish leg veins can appear, causing discomfort, itching, and a heavy sensation.
Preventing varicose veins during pregnancy
While some changes during pregnancy are unavoidable, there are several strategies you can use to minimize the impact on your leg veins and overall vascular health:
Exercise regularly: Engage in low-impact exercises approved by your healthcare provider, such as walking or swimming, to improve circulation and strengthen leg muscles.
Maintain a healthy weight: Keep weight gain within the recommended range for your pregnancy per your doctor’s recommendations. Excess weight gain can put additional pressure on the veins, increasing the risk of varicose veins.
Elevate your legs: Take breaks throughout the day to elevate your legs above heart level, reducing the pressure on your leg veins and promoting better blood flow.
Wear compression stockings: Supportive compression stockings can improve circulation by applying gentle pressure to the leg veins. They are particularly beneficial when worn during periods of prolonged sitting or standing.
Stay hydrated and eat a balanced diet: Drinking plenty of water and consuming a diet rich in fiber can help prevent constipation, reduce strain during bowel movements and lower the risk of hemorrhoids. A high-fiber diet consists of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds, and bran.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that moms-to-be drink 8 to 12 cups (64 to 96 ounces) of water daily. Not only will increased hydration help relieve constipation and prevent varicose veins, but water also aids digestion, forms the amniotic fluid around the fetus, and helps circulate nutrients in the body.
Avoid prolonged sitting or standing: If your job or daily activities require extended periods of sitting or standing, try to take breaks and incorporate movement to prevent blood from pooling in your leg veins.
Hemorrhoids and Pregnancy
Pregnancy can also contribute to the development of hemorrhoids, which are varicose veins in the rectal area. These itchy, painful swollen blood vessels are a common concern during pregnancy, as increased pressure on the veins, hormonal changes, and constipation contribute to their development.
Expectant moms can prevent hemorrhoids by maintaining regular bowel movements with a fiber-rich diet, staying hydrated, and engaging in gentle exercises. Applying cold packs, using over-the-counter creams, and practicing good hygiene can also provide relief. If symptoms persist or worsen, consulting a healthcare provider is recommended for further evaluation and treatment options.
Consult your healthcare provider
By understanding the causes and effects of pregnancy on leg veins and applying these preventative measures, you can minimize the risk of varicose veins and associated discomfort. Remember to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle—partnering with your healthcare provider and prioritizing self-care during this remarkable journey.
Center for Vein Restoration is here to help
The good news is that pregnancy-related varicose veins are often temporary and will likely resolve on their own within a few months following delivery.
If you continue to have questions or concerns about your vein health once your bundle of joy has arrived, we’re here for you. Our board-certified vein doctors (70+ physicians across 22+ states) are experienced in post-pregnancy leg health. Request a consultation ONLINE, and we'll find your closest provider.