How To Relieve Varicose Vein Symptoms During & After Pregnancy
As we discussed in a previous blog post about one young mom, it’s common for varicose vein symptoms to develop or worsen during pregnancy. The increase in progesterone and blood volume both contribute to stress on the one-way valves in a pregnant woman’s leg veins. When these one-way valves fail to keep blood moving up towards the heart, the veins become enlarged, or varicose.
For women who had varicose veins before pregnancy, their symptoms of aching, throbbing, pain, and swelling often worsen during pregnancy. Sometimes symptoms will dissipate after delivery, but varicose veins tend to progress with each pregnancy so symptoms are nearly guaranteed to be more painful with each subsequent pregnancy.
While it’s not advised to undergo treatment during pregnancy, it is wise to have your varicose veins evaluated while still pregnant. This allows a vein specialist to fully assess the extent of your varicose veins in order to see which veins are affected and which may persist postpartum or be more prone to fail in later years.
It’s also important to be evaluated if phlebitis—or inflammation because of a clot within veins—is occurring. Phlebitis can be quite painful and may cause localized leg pain and swelling from clots that form in the superficial veins of the skin. Severe symptoms may rarely require a blood thinning medication for a short period of time while still pregnant.
In addition to assessing the extent of your varicose veins, your vein specialist will also be able to help you make a plan for alleviating symptoms during pregnancy, such as:
Wear Compression Hose
Compression hose stockings are designed to improve circulation by helping redirect blood upwards to the heart, which relieves pressure in the veins. Compression hose are the first line of defense for anyone with varicose veins because most insurance plans require patients to wear them for three months before approving a treatment procedure. But the stockings do often make the legs feel better, particularly during pregnancy. Your vein specialist can advise you about which grade stocking would be best for your symptoms.
Put Your Feet Up
Elevating your feet above heart level for 15 or 20 minute intervals allows gravity to naturally recirculate any pooled blood in your legs back towards your heart. If possible, elevate your feet above heart level three or four times a day, and particularly at the end of the day. In addition, make a point to stand and walk around if you’re sitting most of the day, and vice versa.
Stay Active & Maintain Weight Gain
Regular exercise, such as walking, promotes circulation throughout the body and contributes to your overall health during pregnancy. And while of course you’re expected to gain weight during pregnancy, try to stay within the recommended weight range for each stage of pregnancy since any extra weight increases pressure in your legs’ veins.
Sleep On Your Left Side
As the baby grows, the uterus causes increased pressure on the large inferior vena cava vein on the right side of the body. Try to sleep on your left side to avoid adding more pressure on the vena cava vein.
These tips should help relieve some of your varicose vein symptoms during pregnancy. However, if you are pregnant and begin to experience symptoms such as a vein that is painful, hardened, or warm to the touch, call your vein specialist immediately. And remember that it’s wise to consult with a vein specialist while still pregnant to fully assess the extent of your varicose vein disease.
Should you and your vein specialist decide to treat your varicose veins after delivery, treatment procedures would usually not begin for at least six weeks to three months postpartum. You can continue breastfeeding through treatment, although you may be advised to pump and discard milk for one to two days immediately around the time of a procedure if anesthetics are used.
At East Tennessee Vein Clinic, we help many women get rid of their varicose veins so they don’t have to worry about developing more serious symptoms during and after pregnancy. When our patients learn that the procedures are quick and outpatient, plus typically covered by insurance, they’re glad they didn’t postpone treatment longer.
As the first physician dedicated solely to the treatment of vein disease in Tennessee, Dr. Douglass and East Tennessee Vein Clinic lead the region in experience and expertise of varicose veins. We treat veins differently than other clinics precisely because of this very attention to treating the root cause and entire failed network of each patient’s vein disease. Visit us online at East Tennessee Vein Clinic, or call 866-281-VEIN, or request an appointment online today.