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Varicose Veins During Pregnancy

Posted by on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, 3:28
This news item was posted in Gynaecological, P, Pregnancy, V category and has 1 Comment so far.

Many women develop varicose veins during pregnancy. In fact, it has been estimated that as many as 40 percent of all pregnant women suffer from varicose veins.

The principal cause is the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Increased levels of the hormone progesterone cause blood vessels to relax. This may allow the two halves of the valves in the vein to separate slightly, so that they don’t meet to block the back-flow of blood.
The enlarged uterus (the organ that holds a developing fetus), pressing against the major veins in the pelvic region, tends to add to the overall problem. The result is an increase in the pressure in the leg veins that are subject to becoming varicose.
A family history of varicose veins tends to increase the likelihood of varicose veins developing during pregnancy.
Varicose veins that develop during pregnancy usually disappear after delivery. Unfortunately, varicose veins are likely to recur in each succeeding pregnancy, often sooner than during the previous pregnancy. Also, varicose veins may become increasingly prominent with each succeeding pregnancy.

Varicose Veins During Pregnancy
Varicose Veins During Pregnanc

What are varicose veins?

Varicose veins are swollen veins that may bulge near the surface of the skin. These blue or purple, sometimes squiggly veins are most likely to show up in your legs, though you may also get them in your vulva or elsewhere. (In fact, hemorrhoids are really just varicose veins of the rectal area.)
You may have little or no discomfort from them, or they may make your legs feel heavy and achy. The skin around a varicose vein may also itch, throb, or feel like it’s burning. The symptoms tend to be worse at the end of the day, especially if you’ve been on your feet a lot.
Many women first develop varicose veins – or find that they get worse – during pregnancy. As your uterus grows, it puts pressure on the large vein on the right side of your body (the inferior vena cava), which in turn increases pressure in the leg veins.
Veins are the blood vessels that return blood from your extremities to your heart, so the blood in your leg veins is already working against gravity. When you’re pregnant, the amount of blood in your body increases, adding to the burden on your veins. And your progesterone levels rise, causing the walls of your blood vessels to relax.
You’re more likely to get varicose veins if other members of your family have had them. They’re more common in women than men, and if you have them, they tend to get worse with each successive pregnancy and as you get older. Being overweight, carrying twins or higher multiples, and standing for long periods can also make you more susceptible.
The good news is that varicose veins tend to improve after you give birth, particularly if you didn’t have any before you got pregnant. And if they don’t get better, there are a variety of ways to treat them.
You may have also noticed tiny blood vessels near the surface of the skin, especially on your ankles, legs, or face. These are called spider veins because they often appear in a spider- or sunburst-like pattern with little branches radiating out from the center (though sometimes they may look more like the branches of a tree or separate thin lines with no particular pattern). These don’t cause discomfort, and they typically disappear after delivery.

What can I do to prevent varicose veins?

You may be able to prevent them or at least minimize them. Here are some tips:
Exercise daily. Even just a brisk walk around the block can help your circulation.
Strive to keep within the recommended weight range for your stage of pregnancy.
Elevate your feet and legs whenever possible. Use a stool or box to rest your legs on when you’re sitting, and keep your feet elevated on a pillow when you’re lying down.
Don’t cross your legs or ankles when sitting.
Don’t sit or stand for long periods without taking breaks to move around.
Sleep on your left side. Wedge a pillow behind your back to keep yourself tilted to the left and elevate your feet with a pillow. Since the inferior vena cava is on the right side, lying on your left side relieves the vein of the weight of the uterus, thus decreasing pressure on the veins in your legs and feet.
Wear special support hose. Graduated-compression stockings, which are twice as thick as normal pantyhose, work best. These stockings are available from medical supply stores and pharmacies. They’re tight at the ankle and get looser as they go up the leg, making it easier for blood to flow back up toward your heart. As a result, they help prevent swelling and may keep your varicose veins from getting worse.
To prevent blood from pooling in your legs, put the stockings on before getting out of bed in the morning, while you’re still lying down, and keep them on all day. Heavy-duty support hose may be bothersome, especially in hot weather, but bad varicose veins can be more uncomfortable.

Are varicose veins ever serious?

Varicose veins may itch or hurt, and they can be unsightly, but they’re generally harmless in the short term – so treatment, if needed, can wait until after pregnancy. A small percentage of people who have varicose veins develop small blood clots near the skin’s surface (a condition called superficial venous thrombosis). When this kind of clot develops, the vein may feel hard and rope-like, and the area around it may become red, hot, tender, or painful.
These clots usually aren’t serious, but be sure to call your healthcare practitioner if you think you have one. Occasionally the area surrounding a clot becomes infected (in which case you may have fever or chills), and you’ll need to be treated promptly with antibiotics. Also call your practitioner right away if either of your legs becomes significantly swollen or has sores, or the skin near the veins changes color.
Don’t confuse superficial venous thrombosis with a serious condition called deep venous thrombosis (DVT), in which clots develop in the deep veins, usually in the legs. Pregnancy makes you more susceptible to DVT whether or not you have varicose veins, but it’s not common. Your chance of getting it either during pregnancy or in the weeks after you give birth is about 1 in 1,000. (Women with blood clotting disorders or on prolonged bedrest are at higher risk.)
If you develop DVT, you may have no symptoms, or you may have sudden, painful swelling in your ankle, leg, and thigh. It may hurt more when your foot is flexed or when you’re standing, and you may have a slight fever as well. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your practitioner immediately.
If a clot is suspected, you’ll have a special ultrasound evaluation of the involved area. If you do have one of these clots, you’ll need to be hospitalized and treated with medication to thin your blood.
Left untreated, the clot could break away and travel to the lungs, a life-threatening condition called a pulmonary embolism. Signs of a pulmonary embolism include shortness of breath, painful breathing, a cough (or coughing up blood), a panicky feeling, and a rapid heartbeat – and should prompt a call to 911.

Is there any way to get rid of varicose veins?

Varicose veins often improve within three to four months after giving birth, though sometimes it takes even longer, and sometimes they don’t improve much at all after you’ve given birth. (This is more likely if you’ve had multiple pregnancies.)
During this time, it’s a good idea to continue to wear support hose, exercise regularly, avoid prolonged sitting or standing, and elevate your legs whenever possible. But if your varicose veins persist and become too uncomfortable to live with, or even if you’re just unhappy with how they look, you have a variety of treatment options. Ask your practitioner to refer you to a specialist.

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