Causes of Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Millions of women experience the magic of pregnancy each year, but not all find the nine or so months of carrying a child to be an enjoyable time. Changes to the body, weight gain, and skin issues are common among pregnancy woman, and often there is little that can be done to prevent these shifts from taking place. Varicose veins - the bulging, twisted, dark blue or purple veins showing beneath the skin - are another physical change common among women who are pregnant, with no warning and no quick or easy fix.
Throughout the world, one-third of adults experience varicose veins at some point in their lifetime, including both men and women, for a variety of reasons. Having an occupation that requires standing on one's feet for hours at a time, carrying excess weight, and genetic predisposition to vein issues may all add up to unsightly, sometimes uncomfortable varicose veins as an adult. Pregnancy can also be a cause of varicose veins due to the hormonal and weight changes taking place in the body over a short period of time. It's important for pregnant women to understand the reasons why varicose veins rear their ugly heads, and what can be done during and after pregnancy to reduce the appearance of damaged veins.
Why Varicose Veins Appear
Eddie Chaloner, a vein specialist at Radiance Vein Clinic, explains how varicose veins come to be, stating that the valves in the vein system start to leak over time. Veins are meant to push blood up through the leg and ultimately back to the heart for circulation, but the natural pull of gravity makes this more difficult, especially when veins are weakened. In pregnant women, the potential for leaky veins is greater because the uterus is enlarged, putting added pressure on the veins in the pelvis. This restricts blood flow in the legs while increasing pressure, making leaky veins worse.
Chaloner also explains that hormones play a role in the appearance of varicose veins. As the body produces hormones necessary for the body to relax before giving birth, the same relaxing effect takes place on the veins in the legs. As the vein walls loosen, the veins themselves enlarge creating a higher risk of varicose veins throughout pregnancy. For some, the occurrence of varicose veins causes nothing more than a cosmetic woe, with the bulging, darkened veins showing through the skin. For others, however, varicose veins cause discomfort that requires medical intervention, including swelling, aching, and itchiness at the site of the weakened vein.
Minimizing Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can happen to anyone, especially those who are pregnant, making it difficult to prevent a breakdown in vein functioning from taking place fully. However, there are steps women can take if varicose veins begin to appear during pregnancy. First, maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise, even while pregnant, is an important factor in reducing the potential for varicose veins or their severity once they arrive. Carrying less excess weight means there is less pressure on the vein walls which allows blood to flow more freely from the legs back to the heart.
In addition to sustaining a healthy lifestyle, pregnant women may be able to reduce the discomfort and look of varicose veins by elevating their legs from time to time. Propping up the legs above the heart, or taking the time to sit down every few hours either at work or at home works to improve circulation over time. If taking extended breaks is not an option, alternating the weight placed on each leg or changing positions periodically helps to minimize varicose veins. It is also important to avoid crossing the legs or standing or sitting in a single position for a long period.
When varicose veins are such a both that they cause pain in the legs constantly, it may be time to speak with a vein specialist or primary care doctor. With an in-depth understanding of what may be causing the varicose veins, a medical professional can recommend different at-home treatments that reduce the discomfort and achiness during and after pregnancy. Compression stockings are often suggested for use during the day to help with the circulation of blood throughout the legs, and for some patients, minimally invasive surgery may be required to remedy the issue.
Overall, varicose veins are common among women who are pregnant for a number of varied reasons, but living with the discomfort and unsightly appearance of weakened veins is not a life sentence. Understanding why varicose veins appear and working through the steps above to minimize the look and feel both during and after pregnancy can help tremendously. Should these activities or lifestyle changes not do the trick, individuals with varicose veins have the option to schedule a visit with a vein specialist to gain an understanding of treatment options for getting rid of varicose veins.
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