The body undergoes many changes during pregnancy to accommodate the growing baby. Organs shift position as the uterus increases in size. The bodily systems work to meet changing demands, including the circulatory system, as mother and baby gain in size and weight. Pregnancy brings about a higher rate and volume of blood flow that can sometimes result in varicose veins. It is not at all uncommon during pregnancy, nor typically dangerous. Often the enlarged veins will disappear afterward, when the woman’s body weight returns to its normal range.
It’s Not Only The Legs
The additional weight of pregnancy combines with the increased blood flow and volume increases the risk of varicose veins forming in the legs. That is because the additional weight can compress some of the veins in the lower extremities. As the uterus expands, there are also changes in the routing of the circulatory system, which can make it more difficult for the increased blood volume to circulate in an unrestricted manner, and gravity being what it is, the legs often bear the brunt of this.
The increased volume of blood from the pregnancy can enlarge veins that may be weakened by their expansion, allowing for valves within them to not work quite as well as they should. This circulatory system situation isn’t just limited to the legs. Varicose veins can occur on the labia and other areas in the vaginal region, in part due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. This is more common during the later stages of the pregnancy, when the weight of the infant, placenta, and amniotic fluid can compress veins in the pelvic region, increasing varicose vein risk.
Reducing The Risk
Genetics and problem veins during previous pregnancies can make it difficult to avoid developing varicose veins during pregnancy. However, there are things that can be done to decrease the risk. Maintaining circulatory system health and optimum functioning will take a bit of extra effort during pregnancy. Low impact exercise, like walking, can encourage the blood to move through the circulatory system, reaching the extremities with more efficiency and making sure the blood flows through those areas correctly.
Paying more attention to changing position frequently, whether sitting or standing, can help to prevent vein compression and avoid restricting the flow of blood. Elevate feet and legs periodically throughout the day. Try to avoid restrictive clothing, with the exception being support hose upon a doctor’s recommendation. Reduce consumption of processed foods, as they tend to be high in sodium, which encourages swelling that can lead to compression, and because they tend to be nutritionally lacking as compared to fresh foods.
Nutrition is essential to circulatory system health, as well as to a successful pregnancy and a strong, healthy newborn. Make sure to get plenty of Vitamin C from real food sources, as that promotes healthy circulatory structure and function. Supplements have a role in nutrition, but the foods are far more nutrient rich, as they contain subtle but important nutrients that the laboratory just can’t replicate yet, in the same way scientists haven’t been able to reproduce human breast milk.
Treatment Options During Pregnancy
According to information from the National Institutes of Health, the decades old standard approach to treating varicose veins during pregnancy is to use the least invasive methods possible. Except in extreme cases that offer a true threat to health, surgery is not recommended. Medical grade supportive stockings may be suggested, and therapeutic compression may be required in the event of bleeding, as noted by Phlebolymphology, a medical science journal. Often, it is more the symptoms of varicose veins that are treated than the veins themselves. Pain and skin rash can result, and can be treated with physician approved topical solutions.