Having a baby is a wonderful, exciting time. As you anticipate the arrival of your little one, however, every expecting mom knows there are plenty of discomforts to endure. And, along with nausea, exhaustion and aversions to certain foods, did you know vein problems are common during pregnancy? The many changes happening in your body to carry your child have all kinds of consequences, including to your vein health.
In fact, some of the most common side effects of pregnancy relate to the veins: varicose veins, spider veins, venous insufficiency and even deep vein thrombosis are all possible. Some of these conditions are harmless, but some are too serious to ignore. How do these issues arise? What are the differences among these conditions? What, if anything, can you do about them as an expecting mom?
To help answer these questions, here’s a closer look at the impact pregnancy has on your veins and what you need to know. If you’re pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant and/or curious about protecting your veins, read on.
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Why Vein Problems Are Common in Pregnancy
For many women, pregnancy means both higher blood flow and a lack of proper circulation. Carrying a baby can increase your body’s blood volume up to 50 percent. That’s a lot more blood pumping through your veins. At the same time, pregnancy also boosts the hormone progesterone, which dilates the blood vessels. These combined changes can dramatically impact the health of your veins. Additionally, a growing baby and uterus puts pressure on the veins, in the pelvic area specifically. This added pressure can increase the chances of developing vein issues.
The Different Vein Diseases That Affect Pregnant Women
While spider and varicose veins are the most typical pregnancy-related vein issues, there are also more serious conditions that can arise. One of the best things you can do as a mom is recognize the symptoms and understand the differences among the diseases. With that in mind, here’s a look at the specifics — and when to be concerned.
- Spider veins. Named for their resemblance to spider webs, spider veins tend to be reddish or bluish in color. The veins can also sometimes look like sunbursts or short, disconnected lines. They are most common on the legs, but they can also occur on other parts of the body, including the face. While their unpleasant appearance may seem troubling, the good news is they will usually disappear three to four months after giving birth.
- Varicose veins. Another frequent but thankfully harmless side effect of pregnancy can be varicose veins. Varicose veins are large, swollen blood vessels that, like spider’s veins, can look alarming. They’re most common in the legs, but they can also occur anywhere on the lower half of the body. With varicose veins, lumps may increase in size throughout pregnancy, but then often recede after giving birth.
- Venous insufficiency. Venous insufficiency is slightly more severe than varicose and spider veins, thus warrants more attention. With this condition, you may experience symptoms such as swelling, pain, itching, skin discoloration, night cramps and burning and heaviness in the lower extremities. If left untreated, the swelling can cause capillaries to burst, potentially leading to long-term damage such as ulcers, inflammation and damage to internal tissues.
- Deep vein thrombosis. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a vein disease that can be extremely serious — even life-threatening — if ignored. It involves a blood clot in a deep vein and can cause symptoms such as a heavy, painful feeling in one leg, warmth in the calf or thigh and mild-to-severe swelling.
How You Can Prevent and Alleviate Vein Problems in Pregnancy
As an expecting mom, you aren’t a helpless victim against vein problems. There are numerous lifestyle changes that can improve blood flow and minimize your vein risks. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight, for example, can make a big difference for your vein health. Reducing your salt intake, increasing your water intake and consuming plenty of fiber and foods rich in vitamin C are beneficial modifications to your diet. Other tips include avoiding long periods in the same seated or standing position and wearing comfortable shoes. If possible, try to move at least every 30 minutes. It also can be helpful to sleep on your left side if you can be comfortable in that position. This can help reduce the pressure on your inferior vena cava found on the right side of your body.
When to Get Help
In many cases, pregnancy-related vein issues will improve after you give birth. If, however, your symptoms are severe or causing you a great deal of discomfort, talk to your doctor about what treatments are available.
To learn more about maintaining vein health, take a look at the attached resource. In it, you’ll find a breakdown of the basics of vein problems during pregnancy, presented in a visually friendly, easy-to-follow format.
Graphic created by USA Vein Clinics.
Author bio: Dr. Yan Katsnelson is the founder of USA Vein Clinics, the largest, national network of vein treatment centers committed to improving lives through minimally invasive treatments of venous insufficiency. USA Vein Clinics specializes in the treatment of spider veins and varicose veins through endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), ClariVein, Varithena vein treatment, ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, and sclerotherapy injections.