Ordinarily, pregnancy is an exciting period for many mothers. However, some of the physiological changes that occur in a mother’s body can at times present challenges. One example of the common changes during pregnancy is weight gain. For many women, the weight gained during pregnancy ultimately dissipates as time elapses. However, there are other major concerns that numerous mothers have to contend with including sagging breasts, caesarean section scars, or varicose veins. Research shows that around 40% of pregnant women develop dilated blood vessels near the skin surface; especially on the thighs and calves. The dilated blood vessels often lead to varicose veins. Varicose veins may be uncomfortable but are rarely deemed harmful.
Symptoms of Varicose Veins
The common signs of varicose veins include dermatitis in the legs, itching and thinning of the skin on the varicose vein, swollen feet and ankles, burning or throbbing sensation in the legs, feeling of heaviness or discomfort in the legs, and muscle cramps at night.
Why Varicose Veins Appear
There are varied reasons why varicose veins appear. During pregnancy, the volume of blood circulating in the body is expected to increase. In contrast, the rate of blood flow from the legs to the pelvis decreases. This occurrence leads to pressure on the veins which results in varicose veins. The decrease in blood flow occurs due to a weakness in the valves that control blood flow. Consequently, blood pools in the blood vessels causing walls of the veins to stretch and sag.
Further, in normal circumstances, veins transport blood in one direction; specifically to the heart and lungs to enable the blood to be oxygenated. When valves in the walls of the vein fail, the blood circulating in those vessels is not transported efficiently. Subsequently, the pooling blood results in bulging veins which manifest on the surface of the skin.
The concurrent hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy also cause the proliferation of varicose veins. The elevated levels of relaxin cause the smooth muscles of the veins to relax. In addition to hormones, studies also show that the growing baby tends to induce pressure on the mother’s system. Essentially, the pelvic veins in the uterine walls, rectum, perineum, and walls of the vagina experience pressure. Subsequently, the pelvic veins cause pressure on the veins in the thighs and lower legs leading to the condition.
Will Varicose Veins Disappear After Pregnancy?
In many cases, varicose veins are unlikely to cause harm. After delivery, most mothers cite that the varicose veins reduce. Many of the mothers often begin to notice the gradual disappearance of varicose veins by the sixth to the twelfth week after delivery. By that time, the hormonal changes could have resolved. In other mothers, the symptoms often reduce within three to four months after birth. However, the occurrence of varicose veins varies with each individual. For example, in some mothers, deterioration of the varicose veins worsens with each consecutive pregnancy.
While most women experience a decrease in the varicose veins after the first pregnancy, there a few mothers whose varicose veins persist after the second pregnancy. By the third pregnancy, around 60% of the mothers might experience varicose veins that fail to resolve. When varicose veins persist after pregnancy, there are various complications that could develop later, including miniature blood clots in the varicose veins, a condition known as inflammation thrombophlebitis. In less severe cases, it results in deep vein thrombosis (DVT). However, the risk of developing DVT is remote.
Thrombophlebitis should be treated using anti-inflammatory analgesics.
A few precursors cause varicose veins to persist after pregnancy. In some mothers, varicose veins fail to shrink if they were present even before the pregnancy. Additionally, if a mother is overweight or works in a job where she is required to stand for extended periods of time, it is likely that the varicose veins will not shrink as expected. Adding significant amounts of weight in a short time also increases the susceptibility to varicose veins. The additional weight puts pressure on the veins. To keep weight within healthy limits, one can adhere to a balanced diet while avoiding a sedentary lifestyle. While losing weight is beneficial, it is crucial to note that excessive weight loss can cause varicose veins to become more visible.
Remedies to Lessen Varicose Veins
To mitigate the development of varicose veins, mothers can adopt various simple remedies including exercise regimens, weight loss programs, or elevation of legs, among others. Frequently putting feet up prevents the incidence of blood pooling in the lower half of the body. One can use a footstool or box to put the feet up. Alternatively, one can put pillows under the ankles to keep the legs raised. Mothers are also advised to avoid standing for extended periods of time and to avoid sitting with legs crossed.
Many healthcare professionals also counsel mothers experiencing varicose veins to wear compression tights, engage in walking or swimming exercises to improve circulation, among other simple practices. Compression stockings are not recommended for every mother; tests have to be conducted to check the circulation of blood. The tights work by squeezing legs to improve circulation. Their design incorporates a tight fit at the ankle which gradually becomes loose further up the leg. The compression stocking design encourages blood flow towards the heart.
When to See the Doctor
In most cases, if varicose veins do not impact a mother’s life, it may be unnecessary to visit the doctor. However, if the varicose veins cause pain, it is recommended to seek treatment. Moreover, if the skin on the veins becomes irritated and sore or the irritation interrupts one’s sleep, then it is essential to seek a specialist’s opinion. Typically, treatment becomes necessary to alleviate symptoms, to treat complications such as leg ulcers or skin discoloration, or for cosmetic purposes. Cosmetic procedures are seldom provided by NHS except if one decides to have them done at their own cost.
Varicose Vein Treatments
Treatments to improve varicose veins include thermoablation, sclerotherapy, and surgical procedures. Endothermal ablation utilizes the use of radio waves or lasers to seal affected veins. Surgical procedures involve procedures such as ligations where the affected veins are removed. In sclerotherapy, phlebologists inject the leg veins with solutions that cause the varicose veins to disappear within a period of two weeks. It is advisable to wait around six months after delivery before beginning such treatment.
Also, it is recommended to wait before seeking treatment for varicose veins in between pregnancies to prevent the development of complications during pregnancy. Such complications include deep and superficial vein clots. However, treating varicose veins before a subsequent pregnancy is vital as it helps prevent deterioration of the condition in the next pregnancy. The temporary side effects of such treatments include a stinging feeling at the site where you receive the injection, brown spots, and muscle cramps.
Varicose veins frequently disappear after pregnancy. However, if the symptoms impact negatively on the quality of life an individual, then one might consider visiting a specialist.
- Estrogen and Progesterone: The Double-Edged Sword for Women with Varicose Veins
- Preventative Effect of Compression Stockings During Pregnancy and Varicose Veins
- Diet Options for Varicose Veins
- Pregnancy to Parenthood: How to Deal with Varicose Veins During and After Pregnancy
- Women’s Health: Hormonal Changes and Varicose Veins