When you are expecting, you typically wake up to something new every day. Pregnancy is the harbinger of change, and your body undergoes many changes during this blessed time. It can be hard to keep a track of, and keep pace with these changes. One of the many changes is the appearance of varicose veins. The appearance of these blue lines just under the skin is one of the many occupational hazards of being a mom-to-be. In most cases, the appearance of varicose veins is harmless! But in a few handful of cases, varicose veins during pregnancy can make your legs feel heavy and make your body ache.
Read on for a comprehensive guide to all that you need to know about varicose veins. Here, we address the most common concerns about varicose veins, what they are, how do they develop, and what are the symptoms before going into how to treat them.
What Are Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins are blue or purple color veins that appear just under the surface of the skin (1). While varicose veins can appear in any part of the body, they are most commonly observed in the legs (2).
Statistics suggests that every one out of three moms develops varicose veins at least once in her lifetime (3). Varicose veins are more common in women than men. Most obese women suffer from varicose veins.
How Do Varicose Veins Develop?
These painful varicose veins during pregnancy typically develop, when the small valves that stop the blood heading back to the heart from flowing backward fail to work. The blood flowing in the veins collects in these weak areas, and the walls of the veins begin to sag. In some cases, the veins stretch under the collection of blood and swell up. These swollen veins that appear just under the surface of your skin are varicose veins (4).
Symptoms Of Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can look ghastly, but are harmless in most cases. Few of the symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Itching in the affected area
- Muscle cramps
- Heavy and aching legs
- Swollen ankles and feet
- Tenderness or soreness in the veins
If these symptoms are severe and cause immense discomfort, seek advice from your doctor.
Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Many women suffer from varicose veins during pregnancy. And the reason is fairly simple. Your uterus that holds your growing baby weighs down on your pelvis and also the inferior vena cava. The inferior vena cava plays an important role in carrying deoxygenated blood from your legs, lower limbs and other body organs such as your tummy and pelvis (5). When pressure is exerted on the inferior vena cava, it struggles to carry blood back to the heart.
Varicose veins in pregnancy is something that is natural. During pregnancy, you also will have more blood circulating round your body to facilitate growth and development of your baby. The hormone progesterone too is active and relaxes your blood vessels (6).
These combined, can make the veins in your calf and legs more tender and swollen.
Varicose Veins In Other Parts Of The Body
If you are expecting, you are more likely to develop varicose veins in the legs. But, some expectant mothers also get them in other parts of the body (7). Varicose veins in the rectal area are called Piles and affect quite a few women during pregnancy.
It is said that about 4 percent of pregnant women stand the risk of contracting varicose veins in the rectal area and vaginal area too. But, like varicose veins in the legs, these too get better on their own after delivery.
Are You At Risk?
Are you at risk of contracting varicose vein? How to avoid varicose veins during pregnancy? Whatwhat causes varicose veins during pregnancy? Well, the following pointers throw light on whether you stand a risk of getting varicose veins.
- Varicose veins are said to be hereditary (8). Your mother or grandmother may have experienced the onset of it during their pregnancy. And, if such is the case, you are likely to experience them too!
- The incidence of varicose veins increases with age, weight and every subsequent gestation (9).
- If you are carrying twins or triplets, you stand a higher risk of contracting varicose veins.
- Your occupation can make you get varicose veins. Long standing or sitting hours can also put you at a risk of contracting varicose veins during pregnancy (10).
- Varicose veins generally resolve on their own in about three to four months after delivery, but with some care you can reduce the severity of varicose veins, pregnancy can be more relaxed, and you feel much better (11).Can You Prevent Varicose Veins?
It is needless to say that prevention is better than cure. But, in the case of varicose veins, there is little you can do to prevent it. However, here are a few tips to help stop them from becoming worse.
1. Sleep Right:
Try and sleep on your left side so as to take the pressure off the inferior vena cava. Place both your feet on a soft pillow. Use another pillow like a wedge behind your back.
[ Read: Sleeping Problems During Pregnancy ]
2. Get Moving:
Avoid sitting or standing for a long time. Many expectant mothers get lazy, and this can aggravate varicose veins. Move around every half an hour to ensure good blood circulation (12).
3. Buy A Footstool:
If you have a desk job and do not plan on taking a break from work until close to your due date, ensure you do not cross your legs while working. Invest on a foot stool and use it to elevate your feet (13).
4. Eat Healthy:
Follow a healthy and balanced diet so that you do not put on too much weight too quickly, as this can cause varicose veins.
[ Read: Diet Chart For Pregnant Women ]
5. Keep Constipation At Bay:
Constipation can lead to varicose veins, which left untreated can worsen into hemorrhoids (14). Consume a lot of water and food rich in fiber. If you feel heavily constipated, talk to your doctor, who will suggest a good stool softener.
[ Read: Constipation During Pregnancy ]
6. Cinch it:
Put on a pair of mild support hose or stockings so that the blood has less chance to gather in your legs. These compression stockings are tighter at your ankles and loose at your thighs and thereby help blood go back to the heart with ease. While this may not prevent or cure varicose veins, it will certainly ease your discomfort (15).
Spend at least 20 minutes a day practicing low-impact gentle exercises. A brisk walk in the morning or evening will suffice.
Ask your doctor or midwife to teach you a few antenatal and foot exercises. Exercises such as swimming too can help alleviate the symptoms of varicose veins (16).
8. Foot Exercise:
Try this simple foot exercise to get immense relief from varicose veins:
- Bend slightly and vigorously stretch your foot in up and down about 20 times.
- Now rotate your foot at your ankle, eight times clockwise and then anticlockwise.
- Repeat this with your other foot.
- This keeps the blood circulation in your foot going and reduces the blood from collecting in your legs.
9. Watch your weight:
Talk to your doctor and understand how much weight gain is healthy. Monitor your weight and do not put on too much weight too quickly. Doctors suggest no more than a 35-pound increase during pregnancy. All the extra weight will only overwork your circulatory system.
10. Do Not Strain:
Lifting heavy weights during pregnancy can, not just cause varicose veins, but can also be detrimental to your baby’s growth and development (17). Avoid lifting any heavy weights during the nine months of pregnancy!
11. Pop Some Vitamins:
Make sure you eat food rich in vitamins and minerals. A supplement of vitamin C can do wonders in keeping your circulatory system ticking and your veins healthy (18) . A balanced pregnancy diet can help ward away varicose veins.
[ Read: Vitamin C During Pregnancy ]
Are Varicose Veins During Pregnancy Harmful?
It is but natural to worry if varicose veins during pregnancy pose a risk (19). But, rest assured that they do not cause any serious problems, especially if they are on your legs.
In the rare case that you have varicose veins in the region between your perineum and vagina, your gynecologist or midwife will take extra care during childbirth.
Caution and care are taken to ensure that your perineum doesn’t tear when you begin to push, as this can cause excessive bleeding (20). Your doctor will urge you to take positions that ease the pressure off the perineum and encourage you to push gently. Getting you on your hands and knees may be one of the positions that your doctor may try so as to ensure there is no rupture and consequent bleeding.
If you have suffered from varicose veins even before pregnancy, the following are a few problems that can arise:
- The skin over a varicose vein may thin over time and bleed severely if bumped or even cut. In such cases, seek immediate medical assistance.
- The skin over the varicose veins may be starved and cut off from oxygen and nutrients, as fresh blood struggles to reach them. This will cause toxic build-up that can lead to other conditions like eczema and ulcers that will need medical intervention.
Do Varicose Veins Fade Away After Delivery?
This is yet another question that boggles the mind of every mom to be.Pregnancy varicose veins do recede, and in time vanish, over a period, but can still remain in some cases. If your varicose veins have not subsided after giving birth, you can seek for medical help. However, we suggest you wait until you have had all the babies you want before investing in expensive treatments.
Treatment for varicose veins includes chemical injections, laser treatment and cosmetic surgeries (21). Unless you are in a lot of discomfort, most doctors do not recommend surgery.
[ Read: Varicose Veins After Pregnancy ]
Home Remedies To Treat Varicose Veins
Medical surgeries can be an expensive affair. Varicose veins and pregnancy go hand-in-hand. And, if you do not like the way your legs look or the varicose veins are causing you a lot of burning and throbbing in your legs, you can try these simple home remedies to treat them.
These simple remedies help reduce the severity of the condition and also the discomfort caused by varicose veins.
1. Apple Cider Vinegar:
ACV finds its way in the treatment of myriad health conditions. This potent form of vinegar also does wonders in treating varicose veins. ACV is a natural cleanser and improves blood circulation.
- Dilute one measure of ACV with one measure of water and gently massage it into your skin. Follow this diligently every day before you hit the bed.
- You can also add two tbsps of AVC to a whole glass of water and drink it twice a day. You will see a remarkable improvement in your varicose veins.
- ACV promotes better blood flow and circulation. A good massage will help the blood flow naturally and, as a result, the heaviness and swelling in the veins will reduce.
2. Olive Oil:
When you improve the blood circulation in your legs, varicose veins will begin to heal. A good massage with olive oil will help improve circulation and alleviate symptoms like heaviness almost instantly. If you suffer from pain and inflammation, you will benefit from this home remedy.
- Cut a capsule of vitamin E oil into a bowl of olive oil and warm the contents over a low flame. Massage the oil onto the affected areas in gentle but firm strokes. Do this throughout your pregnancy for best results.
- You can also add a few drops of cypress oil to the above concoction for better results.
[ Read: Olive Oil During Pregnancy ]
3. Butcher’s Broom:
- This herb contains ruscogenins that help reduces inflammation of the veins. It is particularly helpful in treating a bad case of varicose veins, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-elastase properties.
- Pop a supplement of 100 g of this herb thrice a day. The supplement is rich in Vitamin B and C and also has trace quantities of calcium, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. These nutrients together help tighten and strengthen the veins in your legs.
If you suffer from high BP, consult your doctor before consuming this supplement.
This herb not just lends an amazing flavor to food, but also has medicinal properties. It helps in breaking up toxins in the veins and thus improves blood flow.
- Slice 4 to 5 cloves of garlic and put them into a glass jar or bottle.
- Add the juice of 3 oranges to the jar.
- Next, pour in two tbsps of olive oil into the jar.
- Now, leave this jar as is, overnight.
- Shake the contents and pour in a few tablespoons in a bowl.
- Massage the concoction on the inflamed veins in a circular motion.
- Wrap the area with clean white linen and leave it on overnight.
- The remedy is safe on the skin and has wondrous results.
[ Read: Garlic During Pregnancy ]
5. Witch Hazel:
[ Read: Garlic during pregnancy ]Another medicinal herb, Witch Hazel is very effective in strengthening blood vessels. This herb has astringent properties and also contains Gallic acid and other potent essential oils that alleviate both swelling and pain that accompanies varicose veins.
- Soak a clean cotton washcloth in diluted witch hazel and place it on the area affected with varicose veins. You can repeat this as many as three times a day.
- Alternatively, soak your legs in a bath of warm water. Before you dunk your feet, add 10 to 12 drops of witch hazel into the tub. Soak both legs for no more than half an hour. Wash your legs and pat dry after the exercise. Do this daily for a month or two.
Rich in vitamin C, parsley is just the remedy that can help you with a bad case of varicose veins. Like you already know, vitamin C has antioxidant properties and boosts the production of collagen that in turn aids in cell repair. The greens also contain rutin that helps strengthen blood capillaries and thereby reduces the symptoms of varicose veins.
- Finely chop parsley leaves and throw them into a vessel.
- Add water and boil for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the vessel from heat and let the concoction turn lukewarm.
- Now, add a drop of rose and marigold oil to it.
- Refrigerate the concoction for an hour or so.
- Use a cotton ball to gently apply this mixture to the inflamed veins.
- Do this through your pregnancy and after, to get rid of varicose veins. You can also include parsley into your daily diet to prevent and reduce the symptoms of varicose veins.
The beautiful orange flower is a good source of flavonoids that boost the production of collagen, which helps in cell reproduction and tissue repair. It also has vitamin C that makes it all the more potent.
- Boil a cup of fresh marigold flowers in a bowl of water.
- Soak a clean wash-cloth in this liquid and bind it loosely over the varicose veins.
- Repeat this until you begin to see the varicose veins diminish.
8. Fuller’s Earth:
Fuller’s earth is a popular Indian remedy that cures a myriad of skin ailments. Fuller’s earth that is also called bleaching clay and Multani Matti is a potent cleanser and toner and helps give you relief from varicose veins.
- Make a paste of fuller’s earth and water.
- Apply this paste to the varicose veins and let it stay overnight.
- Wash it off with lukewarm water after it has dried up.
- While doctors haven’t been able to establish how exactly this remedy helps, many women have benefitted greatly from using fuller’s earth.
9. Cabbage Poultice:
Did you know that a poultice of cabbage is all you need to treat varicose veins? This vegetable is rich in vitamins such as A, E, U, C, and B2. It also contains potassium, copper, magnesium, and calcium among other vitamins like sulfur and iron. Vitamin K and U in cabbage helps treat ulcers that are caused by varicose veins. The sulfur in cabbage destroys the ferments running in the blood and thereby gives you immense relief from varicose vein ulcers and curbs the infection from spreading.
- Finely chop the veggie after having thoroughly washed them under running water. Add some water and blend to make a paste. Apply this to the affected areas and cover with a clean linen cloth that allows your skin to breathe. Leave this on for a few hours for better results.
- Make a cabbage compress by simply placing a thick cabbage leaf on the ulcer affected the area and binding it with a clean linen cloth. Let the leaf stay on your leg till it dries up and replace with a fresh leaf.
- These simple remedies will help you in abating the symptoms of varicose veins. In rare cases, varicose veins can worsen and may need medical intervention.
[ Read: Tips To Reduce Swelling During Pregnancy ]
When Should You Consult The Doctor About Your Varicose Veins?
Varicose veins while pregnant are normal, and no reason to call your doctor over. Generally, it is time to call your medical practitioner or book an appointment to visit him if:
- Your legs suddenly swell up and are very painful. This may mean that you have a blood clot in the deep vein referred to as DVT, which can be serious and may need prompt treatment.
- The skin over your varicose veins begins to bleed on their own without any impact, and the bleeding does not cease.
- You feel a tender lump that can be indicative of a clot or inflammation in the veins.
- Your skin breaks into an ulcer or pen wound.
- Your condition does not improve with home remedies and lifestyle changes and causes immense pain.
[ Read: Blood Clot During Pregnancy ]
More often than not, waiting and watching is all that you need to do in the case of varicose veins. This condition is not a serious and does not cause any harm to either you or your baby. Most women manage varicose veins with a combination of home remedies, compression stocking, and gentle exercises.
If you feel particularly uneasy and restless over your varicose veins, see your doctor! After all pregnancy is a time you should enjoy and savor, and not worry about health issues! Tell us about your experience with varicose veins below. Leave a comment in the box.