Were your vein problems caused by your pregnancy?
Have you noticed a strange aching in your legs lately — or worse, have you turned around, looked in the mirror and noticed bluish, swollen varicose veins or web-like clusters of tiny spider veins anywhere on your legs? If you’ve been pregnant recently, or had more than one pregnancy, you may experience vein problems popping up … literally.
By understanding how pregnancy affects your veins and taking some simple actions to reduce the pressure on your veins while you are pregnant, you may find that problem veins return to normal within a year after pregnancy. If not, there are some minimally invasive procedures that might help, too.
What pregnancy does to the veins in your legs (and other places)
Your veins bring your body’s used blood back to the heart to recycle it. Tiny valves in your veins keep the blood moving in one direction toward the heart — against gravity when it comes from your legs. When these valves weaken or malfunction, the blood can slide back and collect there, creating swelling in that vein, bluish color and even pain. Your legs might ache, throb or itch for no other apparent reason, and some describe a “heavy” feeling in their legs.
One of the main risk factors for developing vein problems is being overweight; the extra weight puts more pressure on the veins. So you can see how the added weight of a pregnancy might cause some vein problems. The American Pregnancy Association recommends women of normal pre-pregnancy weight to gain no more than 25 to 35 pounds, which is enough to throw you into that “overweight” category while pregnant.
Women, in general, are more likely to develop vein problems. Research has found that female hormones contribute to a slackening of the vein walls. Female hormones are heightened during pregnancy, further exacerbating the problem.
During pregnancy, a woman has more blood in her body. The additional pressure a growing uterus puts on the vessels in the pelvic region is another factor, as is heredity.
The good news is that problems with veins may improve once conditions in the body return to normal after pregnancy. Unfortunately, the condition may worsen with subsequent pregnancies and as you age.
Simple steps to relieve vein problems during pregnancy
Mayo Clinic advises avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time. Try to keep your weight gain steady (vs. putting a lot of weight on all at once) so veins can get accustomed to the pressure. Whenever there is a chance to sit down, especially if you have a standing job, do so. At home, the Mayo Clinic suggests you rest and elevate your legs as high above the heart as you can, and consider sleeping with your legs elevated by a pillow. You can also talk to your doctor about whether wearing special support hose might help. Change your position often while sitting, and if you sit at work all day, take breaks to get up and walk around.
Noninvasive procedures to treat vein problems
There’s no way to prevent varicose veins from forming, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, but the pain and cosmetic distress they cause can be removed, one vein at a time.
One time-tested, non-invasive procedure called sclerotherapy treats both spider veins and the larger varicose veins by injecting a sterile solution into the vein with a fine needle, causing it to shrink and disappear.
Laser varicose vein treatment is a newer procedure that can be completed in under an hour. It uses heat and light to destroy the vein so it closes up and eventually shrinks and dissolves.
Image source: Flickr